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United States v. Pennell

737 F.2d 521 (1984)

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United States v. Pennell

United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

737 F.2d 521 (1984)

Facts

Gordon Pennell (defendant) was charged with drug violations and tried by a jury. On the second day of jury deliberations, five jurors received late-night phone calls at their homes, directing them to convict Pennell. The next day, the five jurors told the rest of the jurors about the phone calls and reported the phone calls to the court. The court questioned each of the five jurors individually to determine whether the calls had affected their ability to remain impartial. Four of the jurors assured the court that their impartiality had not been affected. One of the jurors told the court that the calls had made him uncomfortable and nervous and neither confirmed nor denied whether his impartiality had been affected. With the agreement of the prosecution and Pennell’s counsel, the court then gathered the entire jury and asked a series of questions to determine whether the phone calls had affected any juror’s ability to remain impartial. No juror responded to the questions, and the court allowed the trial to continue. Pennell moved for a mistrial, but prior to ruling on the motion, the court was made aware that one of the jurors who had not received a phone call felt that the calls received by the other jurors might influence her decision on the verdict. When the court questioned the juror, she explained that she was apprehensive because she feared receiving a call, but she assured the court that she would be able to remain impartial. The judge denied Pennell’s motion for a mistrial and offered to sequester the jury, but the jury declined the offer. After three additional days of deliberations, the jury convicted Pennell. Pennell appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Contie, J.)

Dissent (Celebrezze, J.)

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