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Law School Case Brief

Tanner v. United States - 483 U.S. 107, 107 S. Ct. 2739 (1987)

Rule:

Fed. R. Evid. 606(b) states that upon an inquiry into the validity of a verdict or indictment, a juror may not testify as to any matter or statement occurring during the course of the jury's deliberations or to the effect of anything upon his or any other juror's mind or emotions as influencing him to assent to or dissent from the verdict or indictment or concerning his mental processes in connection therewith. A juror may testify on the question whether extraneous prejudicial information was improperly brought to the jury's attention or whether any outside influence was improperly brought to bear upon any juror

Facts:

Seminole Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Seminole), obtained a bank loan for a power plant construction project which included an access road. The loan was guaranteed by the federal Rural Electrification Administration (REA) which had the right to supervise the project, to approve certain contracts including the road construction agreement, and to require certain bidding procedures to be used. Petitioner Conover, Seminole's procurement manager, and petitioner Tanner were friends and had engaged in several business deals together. When the contracts for construction of the road and for fill materials were awarded to Tanner's company upon favorable bidding specifications prepared by Conover's procurement department, Tanner paid Conover over $ 30,000, allegedly as payments on their personal transactions. Thereafter, Conover helped resolve problems between Seminole and Tanner on terms favorable to Tanner, and, after the REA complained that Tanner's bond was not from an approved company, Conover sent letters to a new bonding company that misrepresented the road's state of completion. On these facts, petitioners were indicted and convicted of conspiring to defraud the United States in violation of 18 U. S. C. § 371, and of committing mail fraud in violation of 18 U. S. C. § 1341.  Defendants argued that the district court erred in refusing to admit juror testimony at a post-verdict hearing on juror intoxication during their trial and that the conspiracy indictment failed to charge a crime against the United States. Defendants were convicted of conspiracy and fraud charges under 18 U.S.C.S. §§ 371 and 1341. 

Issue:

Is the refusal to admit juror testimony supported by Fed. R. Evid. 606(b)?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The court held that the refusal to admit juror testimony was supported by Fed. R. Evid. 606(b) because it allowed a post-verdict inquiry only in cases of substantial, if not wholly conclusive, evidence of incompetency. The protection of jury deliberations from intrusive inquiry outweighed defendants' rights to inquire into the deliberations, especially in light of the insufficiency of non-juror evidence. As to defendants' concerns regarding the conspiracy count, the Court held that a conspiracy to defraud the United States could be effected by the use of third parties. Because 18 U.S.C.S. § 371 covered only conspiracies to defraud the United States or any agency thereof, however, the action was remanded for a determination as to whether the evidence showed that defendants' conspiracy to defraud the utility company involved misrepresentations to the REA.

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