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Remmer v. United States

U.S.
Mar 8, 1954
347 U.S. 227 (1954)

Summary

holding that the district court “should determine the circumstances, the impact thereof upon the juror, and whether or not it was prejudicial, in a hearing with all interested parties permitted to participate”

Summary of this case from United States v. Taylor

Opinion

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT.

No. 304.

Argued February 1-2, 1954. Decided March 8, 1954.

During the trial of petitioner in a Federal District Court on charges of willful evasion of federal income taxes, an unnamed person communicated with a juror who afterwards became the jury foreman, and remarked to him that he could profit by bringing in a verdict favorable to petitioner. The juror reported the incident to the judge, who informed the prosecuting attorneys and advised with them. As a result, the Federal Bureau of Investigation made an investigation and report, which was considered by the judge and prosecutors alone, but nothing further was said or done. Petitioner and his counsel first learned of the matter after a verdict of guilty had been rendered, and petitioner thereupon moved for a new trial, which was denied. Held: The case is remanded to the District Court with directions to hold a hearing to determine whether the incident complained of was harmful to petitioner, and if found to have been harmful, to grant a new trial. Pp. 228-230.

(a) In a criminal case, any private communication, contact, or tampering, directly or indirectly, with a juror during a trial about the matter pending before the jury is presumptively prejudicial, if not made in pursuance of known rules of the court and the instructions and directions of the court made during the trial, with full knowledge of the parties. P. 229.

(b) The presumption is not conclusive, but the burden rests heavily upon the Government to establish, after notice to and hearing of the defendant, that such contact with the juror was harmless to the defendant. P. 229.

205 F.2d 277, judgment vacated.

J. Louis Monarch argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the brief were Spurgeon Avakian, John R. Golden and Leslie C. Gillen.

Philip Elman argued the cause for the United States. With him on the brief were Acting Solicitor General Stern, Assistant Attorney General Holland, Ellis N. Slack and Joseph M. Howard.


The petitioner was convicted by a jury on several counts charging willful evasion of the payment of federal income taxes. A matter admitted by the Government to have been handled by the trial court in a manner that may have been prejudicial to the petitioner, and therefore confessed as error, is presented at the threshold and must be disposed of first.

After the jury had returned its verdict, the petitioner learned for the first time that during the trial a person unnamed had communicated with a certain juror, who afterwards became the jury foreman, and remarked to him that he could profit by bringing in a verdict favorable to the petitioner. The juror reported the incident to the judge, who informed the prosecuting attorneys and advised with them. As a result, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was requested to make an investigation and report, which was accordingly done. The F. B. I. report was considered by the judge and prosecutors alone, and they apparently concluded that the statement to the juror was made in jest, and nothing further was done or said about the matter. Neither the judge nor the prosecutors informed the petitioner of the incident, and he and his counsel first learned of the matter by reading of it in the newspapers after the verdict.

The above-stated facts were alleged in a motion for a new trial, together with an allegation that the petitioner was substantially prejudiced, thereby depriving him of a fair trial, and a request for a hearing to determine the circumstances surrounding the incident and its effect on the jury. A supporting affidavit of the petitioner's attorneys recited the alleged occurrences and stated that if they had known of the incident they would have moved for a mistrial and requested that the juror in question be replaced by an alternate juror. Two newspaper articles reporting the incident were attached to the affidavit. The Government did not file answering affidavits. The District Court, without holding the requested hearing, denied the motion for a new trial. The Court of Appeals held that the District Court had not abused its discretion, since the petitioner had shown no prejudice to him. 205 F.2d 277, 291. The case is here on writ of certiorari. 346 U.S. 884.

The motion for a new trial was also grounded on many other contentions, several of which have also been presented to this Court. Because of our disposition of the case on the issue treated herein, we do not pass upon these additional questions.

In a criminal case, any private communication, contact, or tampering, directly or indirectly, with a juror during a trial about the matter pending before the jury is, for obvious reasons, deemed presumptively prejudicial, if not made in pursuance of known rules of the court and the instructions and directions of the court made during the trial, with full knowledge of the parties. The presumption is not conclusive, but the burden rests heavily upon the Government to establish, after notice to and hearing of the defendant, that such contact with the juror was harmless to the defendant. Mattox v. United States, 146 U.S. 140, 148-150; Wheaton v. United States, 133 F.2d 522, 527.

We do not know from this record, nor does the petitioner know, what actually transpired, or whether the incidents that may have occurred were harmful or harmless. The sending of an F. B. I. agent in the midst of a trial to investigate a juror as to his conduct is bound to impress the juror and is very apt to do so unduly. A juror must feel free to exercise his functions without the F. B. I. or anyone else looking over his shoulder. The integrity of jury proceedings must not be jeopardized by unauthorized invasions. The trial court should not decide and take final action ex parte on information such as was received in this case, but should determine the circumstances, the impact thereof upon the juror, and whether or not it was prejudicial, in a hearing with all interested parties permitted to participate.

We therefore vacate the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand the case to the District Court with directions to hold a hearing to determine whether the incident complained of was harmful to the petitioner, and if after hearing it is found to have been harmful, to grant a new trial.

Judgment vacated.

THE CHIEF JUSTICE took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.


Summaries of

Remmer v. United States

U.S.
Mar 8, 1954
347 U.S. 227 (1954)

holding that the district court “should determine the circumstances, the impact thereof upon the juror, and whether or not it was prejudicial, in a hearing with all interested parties permitted to participate”

Summary of this case from United States v. Taylor

holding that information of possible juror bribery coming to light after the jury returned its verdict warranted a hearing

Summary of this case from Benjamin v. Meyer

holding that allegations of influence by an unnamed person outside the jury required the holding of an evidentiary hearing to determine extrinsic influence

Summary of this case from Torrez v. McKee

holding that when improper contacts with a jury are discovered after a verdict, the trial court must hold a hearing to ascertain the effect of those contacts

Summary of this case from State v. Gross

holding that extrajudicial communication with a juror "during a trial about the matter pending before the jury" triggers a presumption of prejudice to the defendant

Summary of this case from Rankin v. Commonwealth

holding that ex parte communications with the jury are "deemed presumptively prejudicial" if not made pursuant to court rules, instructions, or directions of the court "with full knowledge of the parties"

Summary of this case from State v. Sosa-Hurtado

holding that a trial court must conduct a hearing when any improper contact occurs with a juror during a criminal trial to determine the circumstances and the impact on the juror

Summary of this case from State v. Finnell

finding reversible error where the district court did not conduct a hearing on a motion for new trial based on a third-party communication to a juror that he could profit by bringing in a verdict favorable to the defendant that was followed by a mid-trial investigation of the incident by the Federal Bureau of Investigation

Summary of this case from Langston v. Sherman

finding an alleged bribe to a juror in exchange for a favorable verdict was presumptively prejudicial tampering with the jury, requiring a hearing in which all parties may participate

Summary of this case from Santos v. Williams

finding reversible error where the district court did not conduct a hearing on a motion for new trial based on a third-party communication to a juror that he could profit by bringing in a verdict favorable to the defendant that was followed by a mid-trial investigation of the incident by the Federal Bureau of Investigation

Summary of this case from Wolfe v. Peery

ruling communication with juror during trial "about the matter pending before the jury" is presumptively prejudicial

Summary of this case from McNeil v. State

vacating and remanding for a hearing a case in which the jury foreman had allegedly been offered a bribe, the FBI investigated, and the judge and prosecution discussed the FBI's report without informing defense counsel, who "first learned of the matter by reading of it in the newspapers after the verdict"

Summary of this case from Grotemeyer v. Hickman

vacating a conviction due to the failure of the District Court to hold a hearing to investigate potential juror bias

Summary of this case from Ransom v. U.S.

reversing the district court's denial without hearing of the defendant's motion for a new trial based on alleged juror bias, and remanding for an evidentiary hearing

Summary of this case from Conner v. Polk

In Remmer v. United States, 347 U.S. 227 (1954), it ruled that any communication with a juror during a trial about the matter pending before the jury "is, for obvious reasons, deemed presumptively prejudicial."

Summary of this case from Smith v. Phillips

In Remmer, after the Supreme Court's initial remand, the trial court conducted a limited hearing using an "unduly restrictive interpretation" of the Court's order. Remmer v. United States, 350 U.S. 377, 382, 76 S.Ct. 425, 100 L.Ed. 435 (1956).

Summary of this case from Ewing v. Horton

In Remmer, the Supreme Court held that a trial court, when faced with a claim of jury bias, "should determine the circumstances, the impact thereof upon the juror, and whether or not it was prejudicial, in a hearing with all interested parties permitted to participate."

Summary of this case from Lang v. Bobby

stating that conversations between witnesses and jurors are misconduct and create a presumption of prejudice

Summary of this case from Cogswell v. Kernan

mandating an evidentiary hearing where “information ... [about an external contact] was received ” by a trial court

Summary of this case from Tarango v. McDaniel

In Remmer v. United States, 347 U.S. 227 (1954), where an outsider remarked to a juror that he could profit by finding in favor of the defendant, the Supreme Court held that private communications with jurors in criminal cases were "deemed presumptively prejudicial."

Summary of this case from Cutts v. Smith

In Remmer, a juror reported to the district judge that an unnamed third party suggested to the juror that he could profit by returning a defense verdict.

Summary of this case from Barnes v. Joyner

directing that after potential jury tampering is uncovered the trial court "should determine the circumstances, the impact thereof upon the juror, and whether or not it was prejudicial, in a hearing with all interested parties permitted to participate"

Summary of this case from United States v. Gjokaj

involving attempted bribery

Summary of this case from United States v. Nieto

In Remmer, a criminal case involving the willful evasion of taxes, a juror informed the judge post-verdict that an unnamed third party suggested that the juror could profit by ruling in favor of the defendant.

Summary of this case from Hall v. Zenk

In Remmer, the Supreme Court held, citing Mattox, that the trial court's denial of a motion for new trial was erroneous where someone told the foreman of the jury that he “could profit by bringing in a verdict favorable” to the defendant in a tax evasion case, an affirmative effort to influence the jury.

Summary of this case from Tong Xiong v. Felker
Case details for

Remmer v. United States

Case Details

Full title:REMMER v . UNITED STATES

Court:U.S.

Date published: Mar 8, 1954

Citations

347 U.S. 227 (1954)
74 S. Ct. 450
98 L. Ed. 654

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