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United States v. Thomas

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
116 F.3d 606 (1997)


Thomas (defendant) was convicted of violating federal narcotics laws. Starting during voir dire, there were questions about whether one of the potential jurors should actually sit on the jury. The defense challenged the prosecution’s attempt to exercise a peremptory challenge. The judge denied the government’s request and the juror in question became Juror No. 5. Towards the end of trial, the trial judge conducted off the record interviews with each of the jurors because complaints about Juror No. 5 had come to his attention. Then, once jury deliberations had begun, complaints about Juror No. 5 began anew and the judge conducted another round of interviews with the jurors. Many of the jurors complained they could not reach a verdict because of Juror No. 5’s “predisposed disposition” and unwavering belief that Thomas should be found not guilty. However, the jurors were split on Juror No. 5’s motivations. Some said that Juror No. 5 believed Thomas should be found not guilty because Thomas was his “people.” Thomas was African American and Juror No. 5 was the only African American juror. Others said that Juror No. 5 believed that Thomas had engaged in the drug activity but did so only out of economic necessity. However, other jurors told the judge that Juror No. 5 believed certain evidence was insufficient or unreliable and that is why he believed Thomas should be found not guilty. During his own interview, Juror No. 5 said nothing to suggest that he was not making a good faith effort to apply the law as explained to him by the judge. After this round of interviews, the judge decided to remove Juror No. 5. The judge found that Juror No. 5 was ignoring the evidence and basing his decision on preconceived ideas. The day after Juror No. 5 was dismissed, the remaining eleven jurors found Thomas guilty.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Cabranes, J.)

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