Miguel Angel Pena Rodriguez v. Colorado

The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Miguel Angel Pena Rodriguez v. Colorado on April 4, 2016.  Mr. Rodriguez was tried in a Colorado state court with attempted sexual assault on a child, unlawful sexual contact, and harassment based on his contact with two teenage girls.  During voir dire, the jury was questioned as to whether they had any bias for or against the defendant and their answers were unremarkable.  There was no forensic evidence in the case and the prosecution relied entirely on eye witness identification.  The defense presented an alibi defense based on one witness.  The jury deliberated for 12 hours and received Colorado’s version of an Allen charge once from the trial judge, telling them to return to the jury room and continue trying to reach a verdict.  However, the jury convicted defendant of the misdemeanor offense of unlawful sexual contact and two counts of the misdemeanor offense of harassment, but could not reach a verdict on the felony sexual assault charge. 

Following the verdict, two jurors approached the defense counsel.  They explained that during deliberations, another juror had “expressed a bias toward [Petitioner] and the alibi witness because they were Hispanic.” The defense counsel sought permission to contact the jurors to obtain affidavits regarding the alleged racially biased statements. The court granted the request and two affidavits were obtained. 

The question the U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to answer is whether the Sixth Amendment Right to a Trial by an Impartial Jury overrides the no-impeachment rule Colorado’s Rule of Evidence 606(b), allowing the defendant to challenge his criminal convictions based on allegations that racially biased statements were made by one juror during jury deliberations?