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United States v. Brooks

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

June 10, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
DEMETRIUS BROOKS, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR EVIDENTIARY HEARING AND NEW TRIAL

          PAUL D. BORMAN U NITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendant moves for an evidentiary hearing and new trial under Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado, 137 S.Ct. 855 (2017), in light of a post-verdict email to the Court from the only African-American juror. (ECF #57, filed 6/6/19, PgID 344.) Defendant was convicted by a jury on Friday, May 31, 2019 - 4:00pm - of being a felon in possession of a firearm. After the foreperson read the verdict, the Court asked each juror - was that your verdict of guilty - and each juror, individually, affirmed that he or she had rendered a verdict of guilty.

         Three hours later, at 6:58pm, a juror emailed a communication to the Court's jury department stating that she felt "peer pressured" by the other jury members to reach a guilty verdict (Redacted Letter attached). The juror also stated that she believed there was reasonable doubt and more evidence was needed to find the defendant guilty. The juror further stated that the other jurors said that she was not using common sense, and that she was berated by other jurors every time she brought up the lack of evidence.

         Finally, the juror stated that the other jurors sided with the police, although they agreed that there was enough lack of evidence to cause a reasonable doubt, because the "cops say he is guilty." On June 6, 207 the Government filed a "Motion to Enforce FRE 606(b)'s Protection of Internal Jury Deliberations." (ECF #56, PgID 332.)

         On June 6, 2019, Defendant filed a Motion for Evidentiary Hearing and New Trial. (ECF #57, PgID 344.)

         On June 7, 2019, the Court held a hearing on these motions.

         The Court finds that the Supreme Court opinion in Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado, 137 S.Ct. 855 (2017) controls the Court's resolution of these motions. In Pena-Rodriguez, the Court held that despite the Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b) no-impeachment of jury verdict rule, there is an exception "when after the jury is discharged, a juror comes forward with compelling evidence that another juror made clear and explicit statements indicating that racial animus was a significant motivating factor in his or her note to convict." Pena-Rodriguez at 861.

         In Pena-Rodriguez, the issue was that during deliberation a juror had expressed anti-Hispanic bias." Id.

         The Supreme Court held that it was required to decide whether there is an exception to the no-impeachment rule "when a juror's statements indicate that racial animus was a significant motivating factor in his or her finding of guilt. Id. at 867.

         The Supreme Court held that

where a juror makes a clear statement that indicates he or she relied on racial stereotypes or animus to convict a criminal defendant, the Sixth Amendment requires that the no-impeachment rule gives 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 guarantee. Not every offhand comment indicating racial bias or hostility will justify setting aside the no-impeachment bar to allow further judicial inquiry. For the inquiry to proceed, there must be a showing that one or more jurors made statements exhibiting overt racial bias that case serous doubt on the fairness and impartiality of the jury's deliberations and resulting verdict. To qualify, the statement must ten to show that racial animus was a significant motivating factor in the juror's vote to convict. Whether that threshold showing has been satisfied is a matter committed to the substantial discretion of the trial court in light of all the circumstances, including the content and timing of the alleged statements and the reliability of the proffered evidence.

Id. at 869.

         The Supreme Court further noted in Pena-Rodriguez:

In this case, the alleged statements by a juror were egregious and unmistakable in their ...

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