Justice Kennedy’s new racial standard to overturn verdicts.
For 250 years U.S. law has protected jury verdicts from being overturned due to juror misconduct or bias. A liberal Supreme Court majority has now carved out an exception for racial bias, and in an ill-defined way with no limiting principle that is likely to damage the jury system.
After a Colorado jury convicted a Mexican man of sexual harassment, two jurors signed affidavits that a retired police officer on the jury had expressed racial animus during deliberations. The juror was reported to have stated that “nine times out of 10 Mexican men were guilty of being aggressive toward women and young girls,” among other slurs. The defendant’s counsel sought to overturn the conviction based on racial animus but was denied by the trial judge.
The Sixth Amendment guarantees a trial by an impartial jury, and the legal system affords numerous protections against juror bias and misconduct. Jurors can be screened for bias prior to selection. The judge and counsel can discipline juror misconduct during the trial, and jurors may report on their peers before a verdict is rendered. Any single juror’s bias can also be policed by 11 others.