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Note - "Vegas Rule: Jury Deliberation Edition": Should the Sixth Amendment Exception for Alleged Racial Bias in Deliberations Extend to Gender?


Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b) and its jurisprudence generally prohibit jurors from impeaching the validity of their verdicts. This general preclusion of juror testimony, derived from eighteenth-century English common law, aims to protect the public from the inherent danger of dissecting private jury deliberations, which are supposed to be “free and frank discussions.” But should the tradition favoring the secrecy of these deliberations persist if said “free and frank discussions” are tainted with racial animus? Justice Kennedy—writing for the majority in Peña-Rodriguez v. Colorado—recently answered this question in the negative, holding that the Sixth Amendment requires the Rule 606(b) prohibition make way for an inquiry into the validity of a verdict when a juror’s racial animus allegedly motivates an individual juror’s finding of guilt.

This Note argues that Justice Kennedy’s articulation of the recent Sixth Amendment exception to Rule 606(b) should be extended to gender animus that may motivate an individual juror’s finding of guilt. The recent widespread public recognition of gender-motivated assault and harassment begs the question, can a jury deliberation room contaminated with bias be squared with the Sixth Amendment guarantee for an impartial trial?