What Happens in the Jury Room Stays in the Jury Room . . . but Should It?: A Conflict Between the Sixth Amendment and Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b)


The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees all criminal defendants the right to trial by an impartial jury—a jury that is free of bias and that decides the case solely on the evidence before it. If even one juror is biased or prejudiced, the defendant is denied this fundamental right.

Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b) generally prohibits jurors from testifying as to what occurred during deliberations, subject to certain exceptions that do not explicitly encompass the presence of a biased or prejudiced juror. But what happens when one juror voluntarily comes forward after a verdict claiming that another juror was biased or prejudiced? In such a situation, the Rule’s prohibition of juror testimony conflicts with the defendant’s constitutional right to trial by an impartial jury.

Some courts have held juror testimony of another juror’s bias or prejudice to be admissible under an exception to Rule 606(b), while others have found this testimony inadmissible under the Rule’s general prohibition. Still other courts have held that even if such testimony is inadmissible under the Rule’s general prohibition, the Sixth Amendment right to an impartial jury requires the testimony’s admittance.

This Comment contends that courts should admit such testimony. First, certain aspects of the trial process that are meant to protect a defendant’s right to an impartial jury are not effective in the context of juror bias or prejudice. Second, psychological research has shown that it is very difficult to ascertain a person’s bias or prejudice because people are often unaware of their biases or, if they are aware, are unwilling to reveal them.

This Comment also argues that the Rule should not bar admitting this type of testimony. First, testimony of another juror’s bias or prejudice falls under an exception to the Rule. Second, admitting such evidence would not impede the policies underlying the Rule. Finally irrespective of whether this evidence is found to be admissible or inadmissible under the Rule, the Sixth Amendment requires that such testimony be admitted.

About the Author

Amanda R. Wolin is a J.D. graduate of UCLA School of Law, 2012, and an associate at Cox, Castle & Nicholson. In 2011–12, she was the Chief Managing Editor of UCLA Law Review, Volume 59.

By uclalaw