The United States Supreme Court handed down an opinion that changed the law on whether a citizen or the court can involve itself in the deliberations of a jury (See: Pina-Rodriguez v. Colorado, 580 U.S. ___ (2016)). In the past, all matters that inhere in the verdict could not be looked into. In other words, what the jurors discussed could not be questioned. That is not to say that if jurors obtained extraneous information that was not submitted in court (such as doing Google searches and then discussing what they learned) that it could not be inquired into. But courts have even ruled that when a jury discusses and takes into account the fact that a defendant did not testify on his or her own behalf (something they are told they cannot do) and as such must be guilty, that could not be grounds to set aside a guilty verdict (See:  Foster v. State 132 So.3d 40 (Fla. 2013)).

Our nation’s highest court ruled that when a jury exhibits a prejudice based upon race, creed or religion that due process is violated and the court may then become involved. In Pina-Rodriguez, a Hispanic person was on trial in a criminal case. The court later became aware that during deliberations several jurors expressed a prejudice against Hispanics. They contended that Hispanics could not be believed and all the witnesses that were called on behalf of the defendant were not credible because of their heritage. The court found this to be error and reversed the defendant’s conviction.

Although it is difficult to learn whether or not a jury has exhibited such conduct, the court has made it clear that if a defendant is convicted based upon such prejudice and not the evidence submitted at trial, that a guilty verdict will not stand.

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