A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling gives a Colorado man a chance for a new trial, but how far it will extend beyond that is unclear.
In Peña-Rodriguez v. Colorado, a 5-3 panel of justices found that normally sacrosanct jury deliberations can be legally scrutinized if tainted by the racial bias of jurors after a final verdict. State courts below consistently found the opposite, claiming protections for closed-door deliberations rises above Sixth Amendment claims invoked by the case.
The Colorado Supreme Court ruled in May 2015 that a state evidentiary rule prevented Miguel Peña-Rodriguez, who was convicted of a mix of misdemeanors and a felony for sexual contact with two teenagers, from seeking a new trial because it bars a juror from testifying about deliberations.
Colorado Rule of Evidence 606(b), also referred to as the “no-impeachment rule” in court rulings, only allows exceptions for “extraneous prejudicial information” in deliberations or if outside influences affected the verdict.