Statements made by jurors during deliberations are generally protected by from being made public by fellow jurors. On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that this protection will no longer exist in cases where jurors exhibited racial or ethnic bias.
The decision was based on the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of an impartial jury, reports the New York Times, in reference to the case of Peña Rodriguez v. Colorado. In 2010, Miguel Angel Peña Rodriguez was convicted of three misdemeanors and the jury deadlocked on a felony charge in his sexual assault case. He served two years probation. After the trial, several jurors submitted sworn statements to the defense that while the jury made their decision one juror stated, “I think he did it because he’s Mexican, and Mexican men take whatever they want.”
Only three justices—Samuel A. Alito Jr., John G. Roberts Jr., and Clarence Thomas—ruled against Monday’s decision.
“Today, with the admirable intention of providing justice for one criminal defendant, the court not only pries open the door; it rules that respecting the privacy of the jury room, as our legal system has done for centuries, violates the Constitution,” Alito wrote in his dissent. “This is a startling development.”
For the majority, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote, “The nation must continue to make strides to overcome race-based discrimination. The progress that has already been made underlies the court’s insistence that blatant racial prejudice is antithetical to the functioning of the jury system and must be confronted in egregious cases.”