This question has come before the U.S. Supreme Court. Previous rulings have made clear that one can’t (generally) use post-trial claims about what happened during deliberation to overturn verdicts, lest it chill the deliberations themselves. After all, the point of private jury deliberations is to keep them…private.
But what if during deliberation one of the jurors said something that made it plan that she lied during the voir dire period–that pre-trial phase where attorneys question the jurors to detect any undue bias?
That’s the question before the court, and the New York Times has a great article by their regular Supreme Court (and jury) reporter, Adam Liptak. In defense of juror privacy, Liptak points to words from former justice Sandra Day O’Connor:
“A barrage of post-verdict scrutiny of juror conduct,” she wrote, would undermine candid discussions during deliberations. It would make it harder for jurors to take unpopular positions. It could subject former jurors to harassment. It could undermine the finality of verdicts, allowing challenges months or years later.
Yet in this case, Liptak reaches this conclusion:
It is hard to reconcile the two versions of what went on in a South Dakota jury room years ago. But the court system has ways of establishing the truth. Mr. Titus, Ms. Whipple and the other jurors could be called back to court and questioned under oath.
How does he reach that conclusion? You’ll have to read the article to find out.