Fed.R.Evid. 606(b) — Motion to Interview Jurors to Assess Undue Outside Influence, Pre-Closing Deliberations

One of the convicted defendants in U.S. v. Poulsen, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 61141 (N.D. Ohio. Aug. 1, 2008), sought judicial permission to interview jurors to assess whether they were influenced by media coverage or discussed the case among themselves prior to the start of deliberations. The Court denied the motion:

Courts seldom permit litigants to "invade the province of the jury room" through post-trial interrogation of jurors. Holmes v. Telecheck Int'l, Inc., No. 05-0633, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18789, *2 (M.D. Tenn. Mar. 10, 2008). In fact, Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b) only allows such questioning where a litigant establishes that some external force may have improperly influenced the jury's consideration of the case. Fed. R. Evid. 606(b); United States v. Lawrence, 477 F. Supp. 2d 864, 873-74 (S.D. Ohio Nov. 16, 2006). The Rule prohibits questioning about "internal" influences on the jury, such as the behavior of the jurors during deliberations and statements made by jurors. Lawrence, 477 F. Supp. 2d at 873-74.

Ayers's request to interview the jurors is denied. As an initial matter, any discussion among the jurors about defense counsel or the conduct of the proceedings is an internal factor and therefore not a proper subject of post-trial juror interrogation. As the Lawrence Court stated, "communication solely between jurors prior to deliberation is an inherently internal process because it does not involve any extraneous sources of information." 477 F. Supp. 2d at 874 (treating as "internal," information suggesting that the jurors may have discussed the case and formed an opinion about the defendant's guilt prior to the start of their deliberations).

Unlike juror discussions, media coverage is an external influence.... [H]owever, Ayers's due process right to a trial free of juror bias was adequately protected through the searching voir dire process. His concerns that jurors may have been swayed by news accounts of the case amount to no more than conjecture that is not worthy of the extraordinary intrusion into the jury's deliberations that he proposes. See Lawrence, 477 F. Supp. 2d at 873 ("The proof of extraneous prejudicial information under Rule 606(b) cannot be speculative.").

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