Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Supreme Court strikes Pennsylvania no juror impeachment rule

This week the  U.S. Supreme Court decided Peña Rodriguez v. Colorado. The decision on juror impeachment will change the law as it currently exist in Pennsylvania.
“The Nation must continue to make strides to overcome race-based discrimination,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy, who sided with the court’s four liberal members. “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.” 
Some version of the no-impeachment rule is followed in every State and the District of Columbia. Variations make classification imprecise, but, as a general matter, it appears that 42 jurisdictions follow the Federal Rule, while 9 follow the Iowa Rule. 
Within both classifications there is a diversity of approaches. Nine jurisdictions that follow the Federal Rule have codified exceptions other than those listed in Federal Rule 606(b)
At least 16 jurisdictions, 11 of which follow the Federal Rule, have recognized an exception to the no-impeachment bar under the circumstances the Court faces here: juror testimony that racial bias played a part in deliberations.  Only one State other than Colorado has addressed this issue and declined to recognize an exception for racial bias, Pennsylvania. Commonwealth vSteele, 599 Pa341377379961 A.2d 786807808 (2012).

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