Justices Hear Arguments on Allowing Juror Testimony

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in a case that will decide whether a person requesting a new trial may introduce evidence showing a juror was dishonest. “What jurors say during jury deliberations should matter”, says an attorney asking the supreme court to allow a retrial based on juror bias.

After a verdict was reached in the case Warger v. Shauers, juror Stacey Titus told Warger’s lawyers that Regina Whipple, who was chosen to preside over the jury, may have improperly influenced their decision.

Referring to part of a federal rule, Warger’s lawyer argues a juror should be required to testify if evidence of bias information indicated the jury was influenced by bias.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg questioned that argument.

“What is the rationale behind this? What is the strong evidence of dishonesty?”

During deliberations, Whipple said her daughter was in a car accident that ended a mans life. Whipple said if her daughter had been convicted it would have ruined her daughters life.

Warger’s attorney says Whipple introduced bias at that point and concealed it during jury selection making the verdict less fair.

“What was the manner the jury reached it’s verdict? This is about protecting a litigant’s right to a fair trial.”

Shauers’ attorney says the trial court handled the case fairly. She says Warger’s lawyers would’ve known about Whipple’s daughter if they had asked and says their questions weren’t specific.

“They should’ve asked right questions to get a right answer. They didn’t want to. They wanted to wait and see what the verdict would be and game the system.”

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. asked what should happen if a juror was prejudiced with bias during deliberations. Shauers’ attorney says the federal rule still stands and that Congress should make exceptions or else rewrite the rule altogether.

Justices are concerned that using what jurors say as evidence for retrial could increase their workload. It could mean more cases coming back to them as lawyers would say they didn’t get a fair trial.

Lawyers argue a ruling in favor of Warger could intimidate jurors, making them hesitant to talk during deliberations.