No Jury Rigging in the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit: An Analysis of Jury Testimony to Impeach Jury Verdicts

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Following a federal jury trial, losing litigants may seek a new trial by challenging, or impeaching, the validity of the jury's verdict. It is well recognized that, unlike fine wine, steaks, and cheese, lawsuits do not improve with age because as time passes, memories fade, witnesses become unavailable, and evidence is often lost. Accordingly, society has as interest verdict finality, but few would deny a litigant, especially a criminal defendant, a new trial if the jury's verdict was tainted by something external to the protections of the courtroom. Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b) generally prohibits juror testimony to impeach a jury verdict; hence, it protects the individual jurors from, inter alia, harassment by losing litigants and it protects society's interest in verdict finality. However, an outright prohibition of juror testimony may destroy the only evidence that shows a tainted or mistaken verdict, thus Rule 606(b) has carved out three exceptions under which a juror may testify. One exception permits juror testimony concerning "extraneous prejudicial information." The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently addressed this little-known rule in Arreola v. Choudry. While the court correctly addressed the merits in this case, it provided little guidance to the district courts for future application of "extraneous prejudicial information" under Rule 606(b). This article will attempt to clarify how to determine extraneous prejudicial information and how courts should proceed when such information was present during deliberations.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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