United States v. Ruggiero

928 F.2d 1289 (2d Cir. 1991)

 

RULE:

Upon learning of an unauthorized communication by a third person with a juror about a case pending before the juror, the judge must investigate the matter to determine whether the juror's ability to perform her duty impartially has been adversely affected. The extent of that investigation and the method of conducting it will, of course, depend on the surrounding circumstances, including the content of the communication and the apparent sensitivity of the juror. The trial court must be given wide discretion to decide upon the appropriate course to take, in view of his personal observations of the jurors and the parties. 

FACTS:

The lower court entered judgments of conviction against appellants, following a jury trial, for racketeering conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C.S. § 1962(d), narcotics conspiracy in violation of 21 U.S.C.S. § 846, and possession of heroin with intent to distribute in violation of 21 U.S.C.S. § 841(a)(1); and, in the case of one appellant, for traveling in interstate commerce to promote and facilitate the conduct of a narcotics business enterprise in violation of 18 U.S.C.S. § 1952.

ISSUE:

Did the lower court err in dismissing a juror because of continued fearfulness after an incident of intimidation?

ANSWER:

No.

CONCLUSION:

The court held that the lower court committed no error in dismissing a juror who evidenced continued fearfulness after being intimidated by two men prior to commencement of deliberations. Moreover, the court found that the trial court properly allowed the remaining jurors to proceed with their deliberations without conducting a voir dire of the remaining jurors. Lastly, the court found no basis for disturbing the sentences imposed on appellants.

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