Coloradan Prompts Justices To Weigh Racial Bias Vs. Jury Secrecy

Updated 3:25 p.m.

The Supreme Court will decide whether jurors' claims of racially charged comments by another juror can overcome the need for secrecy in jury deliberations.

The justices are agreeing Monday to hear an appeal from a Hispanic man in Colorado who says he did not have a fair trial because a juror made offensive comments about Mexicans.

The remarks came to light when two other jurors told the defendant's lawyer about them. Courts rarely allow jurors to reveal what went on during their deliberations. Via SCOTUSblog:

After the trial was over, two jurors told defense lawyers that one of the jurors had made a number of racist comments about Mexicans during the jury deliberations.  Among other points, that juror was said to have told colleagues that Pena-Rodriguez had committed the crime because he was a Mexican “and Mexican men take whatever they want,” that Mexican men had “a bravado that caused them to believe they could do whatever they wanted with women,” and that Mexican men were “physically controlling of women.”  That juror, a former police officer, allegedly made similar comments based on his experience with Mexican men.  The same juror allegedly described a witness, who also was Hispanic, as someone who could not be believed because he was “an illegal.”

But defendant Miguel Angel Pena Rodriguez argues that the comments were so bad they deprived him of his constitutional right to trial by an impartial jury.

The high court will hear Miguel Angel Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado in the fall.

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