Peña-Rodriguez v. Colorado (U.S. Supreme Court, 2016)

Civil Liberties
Discrimination
Civil Liberties
Discrimination

This case involved allegations of racial bias on the part of a juror in a 2010 sexual assault trial in Colorado. Following a guilty verdict at trial, two jurors reported that a third juror had expressed racial bias against the defendant, who is Latino, during jury deliberations. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion for a new trial and refused to consider those statements of racial bias, finding that a Colorado rule of evidence barred their admission as evidence. ADL joined with the Hispanic National Bar Association and LatinoJustice PRLDEF on an amicus brief, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to allow the use of specific evidence of racial bias in jury deliberations to prove a violation of the constitutional right to a trial by an impartial jury. The brief argued that given the fundamental importance of ensuring that the criminal justice system is free of racial prejudice, the Court should apply strict scrutiny review and invalidate the application of this rule of evidence in the case. In a 5-3 decision written by Justice Kennedy, the Court held that the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of an impartial jury requires lifting the confidentiality of jury deliberations when a juror is accused of making racially biased statements.