COMMENT: Removing Race From The Jury Deliberation Room: The Shortcomings Of Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado And How To Address Them

Lauren Crump *

Justice Kennedy began his recently decided Peña-Rodriguez v. Colorado majority opinion by saying, “The jury is a central foundation of our justice system and our democracy.” The case grappled with the question of whether the long-standing federal rule that jury members cannot testify about any aspect of the deliberation process should give way in cases of racial bias. In a 5-3 decision, the United States Supreme Court found that it should, thereby creating an exception to the commonly referred to “no-impeachment rule.” This exception comes after many expressed concerns that allowing testimony about jury deliberations will undermine the criminal justice system. Those opposed to the exception fear that this exception will remove finality from jury verdicts, dissuade jurors from engaging in “heated discussions” during deliberations and lead to harassment of jurors. Notwithstanding these concerns, the Court ruled that ensuring the elimination of racial bias in jury deliberations was too important of a government objective to allow for the no-impeachment rule to remain undisturbed.

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* J.D. Candidate, 2018, University of Richmond School of Law; B.A., 2015, Syracuse University. I would like to first thank the University of Richmond Law Review staff and editors for all of their hard work in preparing this comment for publication. I would also like to thank Professor Ronald Bacigal for giving me the opportunity to write this comment and for all of his encouragement during the process. Finally, I would like to thank my parents and my sister for always inspiring me to do my best.