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Supreme Court Holds Juror’s Alleged Lies During Voir Dire Not Grounds for New Trial

Supreme Court Holds Juror’s Alleged Lies During Voir Dire Not Grounds for New Trial

by Derek Gilna

In a decision with serious implications for criminal defense attorneys as well as civil litigants, the U.S. Supreme Court held on December 9, 2014 that a juror’s allegedly untruthful responses during voir dire questioning did not require a new trial. According to the high court, “[t]he question presented in this case is whether Rule 606(b) precludes a party seeking a new trial from using one juror’s affidavit of what another juror said in deliberations to demonstrate the other juror’s dishonesty during voir dire. We hold that it does.”

The plaintiff in the case, Warger, had sued in federal court for damages for injuries suffered in an automobile accident. After the verdict for the defendant, Shauers, a juror executed an affidavit for Warger’s attorney stating that one of the other jurors had ruled in favor of Shauers because her daughter had been negligent in a fatal automobile collision – a fact not revealed during the same juror’s voir dire responses. Warger’s motion for a new trial, supported by an affidavit that the juror had lied about her ability to fairly judge the case, brought under Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b), was denied by the district court and the Eighth Circuit affirmed.

Rule 606(b), according to the Supreme Court, made “jury deliberations evidence inadmissible even if used to demonstrate dishonesty during voir dire.” An exception exists for evidence derived from “extraneous prejudicial information” under Rule 606(b)(2)(A), but the Court said that did not extend to an affidavit referring to “internal” assertions about juror dishonesty.

According to the Supreme Court, permitting the expansion of the “external” evidence exception to this particular fact situation “would swallow much of the rest of Rule 606(b).” See: Warger v. Shauers, 135 S.Ct. 521 (2014).

 

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Warger v. Shauers


 

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