U.S. Supreme Court Rules Racial or Ethnic Slurs by Jurors Can Annul the Secrecy Principle

By Menahem Zen | Mar 07, 2017 08:26 AM EST

Supreme Court ruled that jurors deliberations to use racial or ethnic slurs can breach the secrecy principle. The court ruled 5-3 in favor of defendant to have a fair trial against the racial bias.

According to ABC News, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority rule to allow the court to review secrecy principle. The court may do so if the jurors deliberation and statement based on the racial and ethnic bias.

"That blatant racial prejudice is antithetical to the functioning of the jury system,” Justice Kennedy wrote in the Supreme Court ruling. He also wrote the racial prejudice made by the jury, “must be confronted in egregious cases like this one despite the general bar of the no-impeachment rule."

The case was brought to supreme court on behalf of Miguel Angel Pena Rodriguez who was charged with sexual assault in 2007 according to American Bar Association Journal. Rodriguez was charged guilty for sexually assaulting a little girl in his workplace.

During the jury’s deliberation, one juror made a statement to link Rodriguez’s was guilty because of his Hispanic heritage. The third juror said Rodriguez’s background as Mexican man made him take whatever they want. Two jurors confirmed the statement of the third juror.

Chief Justice John Roberts and two Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented. They argued that secrecy rule is a century of practice to respect jury’s privacy. Justice Alito wrote that in order to provide justice for the criminals, the court has violated the constitution and the legal rules.

The grand jury clause was introduced in the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and governed by the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. The procedure stated in Rule 6 to have jury deliberations to examine criminal indictment. The jury is comprised of 16 to 23 people and the jury’s identity and the proceeding is kept a secret to protect the jury from retaliation from the criminal being indicted.

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