United States District Court, D. Vermont
ENTRY ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S POST-CONVICTION
MOTION TO INTERVIEW JURORS (DOC. 62)
Christina Reiss, District Judge
Denny Reyes was charged in a two-count Superseding Indictment
with aiding and abetting alien smuggling and unlawfully
transporting aliens within the United States. On December 21,
2017, a jury convicted him of both counts. On January 15,
2018, Defendant filed a motion requesting leave to interview
the jurors pursuant to Local Rule 83.5, which bars contact
with jurors at all stages of a trial without the court's
written permission. The government opposed Defendant's
motion on January 29, 2018, and the court then took the
matter under advisement.
government is represented by Assistant United States
Attorneys Abigail E. Averbach and Eugenia A. Cowles. David L.
McColgin, Esq. and Steven L. Barth represent Defendant.
Factual and Procedural Background.
December 18, 2017, the parties conducted voir dire resulting
in the selection of twelve jurors and two alternates. The
jury pool was selected in accordance with this district's
Plan for the Random Selection of Grand and Petit Jurors
for Service Within the District of Vermont ("the
Selection Plan"), enacted in compliance with the Jury
Selection and Service Act of 1968, 28 U.S.C. § 1861. The
Selection Plan emphasizes that "[n]o citizen shall be
excluded from service as a grand or petit juror on account of
race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or economic
status." Selection Plan at 2. Under the Selection Plan,
the jury pool is randomly chosen from a Master Jury Wheel
containing, at a minimum, five thousand names.
voir dire, both the government and Defendant inquired into
potential jurors' qualifications, bias, and their ability
to be fair and impartial. Defendant's counsel conducted a
thorough examination, questioning the panel on their views
about immigration laws and policy, the fact that Defendant
required the use of a Spanish interpreter, and the fact that
Defendant was a naturalized United States citizen born in the
Dominican Republic. None of the jurors empaneled for the
trial expressed any bias or prejudice on this basis.
jury selection, the government presented its case in chief
over three trial days, after which the court closed the
evidence and charged the jury. In its instructions, the court
emphasized that jurors "must not permit [themselves] to
be influenced in the slightest degree by sympathy, passion,
or prejudice, or any other emotion in favor of or against
either party." (Doc. 59 at 9.) The court further
instructed that jurors "may not consider the race,
religion, national origin, sex, or age of the defendant or
any of the witnesses in [their] deliberations over the
verdict or in the weight given to any evidence."
Id. at 10. After four and a half hours of
deliberations, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on both
counts. At no time, either during or after the trial, did the
government, Defendant, or any juror report any incidents of
racial bias or present any suggestion of racial animus.
Conclusions of Law and Analysis.
A general rule has evolved to give substantial protection to
verdict finality and to assure jurors that, once their
verdict has been entered, it will not later be called into
question based on the comments or conclusions they expressed
during deliberations. This principle, itself centuries old,
is often referred to as the no-impeaehment rule.
Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado, 137 S.Ct. 855, 861
(2017). The no-impeachment rule, embedded in the common law,
is codified through Fed.R.Evid. 606(b)(1), which provides
During an inquiry into the validity of a verdict or
indictment, a juror may not testify about any statement made
or incident that occurred during the jury's
deliberations; the effect of anything on that juror's or
another juror's vote; or any juror's mental processes
concerning the verdict or indictment. The court may not
receive a juror's affidavit or evidence of a juror's
statement on these matters.
Fed. R. Evid. 606(b)(1).
no-impeachment rule is subject to only three narrow
exceptions: the court may consider evidence that the jury
considered "extraneous prejudicial information[;]"
that "an outside influence was improperly brought to
bear on any juror;" or that the jury made a clerical
mistake when completing the verdict form. Fed.R.Evid.
606(b)(2). The Supreme Court has also recognized a limited
constitutional exception to the no-impeachment rule,
applicable only in cases "where a juror makes a clear
statement that indicates he or she relied on racial
stereotypes or animus to convict a criminal
defendant[.]" Pena-Rodriguez, 137 S.Ct. at 869.
In such circumstances, "the Sixth Amendment requires
that the no-impeachment rule give way in order to permit the
trial court to consider the evidence of the juror's
statement and any resulting denial of the jury trial
the grounds for impeaching a jury's verdict are limited,
courts are "reluctant to 'haul jurors in after they
have reached a verdict in order to probe for potential
instances of bias, misconduct or extraneous
influences.'" United States v. Ianniello,866 F.2d 540, 543 (2d Cir. 1989) (quoting United States
v. Moon,718 F.2d 1210, 1234 (2d Cir. 1983)). Post-trial
investigation of potential juror misconduct is only
appropriate where there is "clear, strong, substantial
and incontrovertible evidence . . . that a specific,