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Criminal Procedure Keyed to Dressler
United States v. Thomas
Citation:116 F.3d 606.
The defendants were charged with violating federal narcotic laws. The Government attempted to use a peremptory challenge on a juror who would later be empaneled as “Juror No. 5.” The trial court denied the Government’s challenge, motivated in part by Juror
Following several weeks of trial, a group of jurors complained that Juror No. 5 was distracting by squeaking his shoe against the floor, rustling cough drop wrappers in his pocket, and by showing agreement with points made by defense counsel. The trial court interviewed each juror, and while seven of them indicated that Juror No. 5 was a source of some distraction, they did not think it would cause problems. Juror No. 5 explained to the court that he sometimes got “carried away” in listening to the attorneys’ arguments, but he stated that he would have no difficulty in applying the law as set out by the court to the evidence presented at trial and assured the court that he would “restrain himself” from engaging in any further distracting behavior.
After deliberations began, some jurors complained about Juror No. 5 again because he voted not guilty and would not change his mind. The next day, the court received a note from a juror that stated that the jury was unable to reach a verdict due to Juror No. 5’s “predisposed disposition.” The court again conducted interviews with the jurors. One juror described Juror No. 5 as “hollering” at fellow jurors, another said he had called his fellow jurors racists, another said that he pretended to vomit during lunch time, and two jurors told the court that he had come close to striking a fellow juror. A few jurors believed that he would not change his mind because he participated in drug activity, and some believed that he would not change his mind because of his race. The jurors, however, were not unanimous in identifying Juror No. 5 as a source of disruption in the jury room and one juror informed the judge that the other jurors were “picking on” him. Juror No. 5 told the court that he needed more substantial evidence in order to convict the defendants.
The judge decided to discharge Juror No. 5. He believed the juror had become a distraction and found that he was refusing to convict “because of preconceived, fixed, cultural, economic, [or] social . . . reasons that are totally improper and impermissible.” The remaining eleven jurors returned a guilty verdict and the defendants were convicted. They appealed.
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