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Unearthing Mansfield's Rule: Analyzing the Appropriateness of Federal Rule of Evidence 606(B) in Light of the Common Law Tradition

Southern Illinois University Journal of Law, Volume 38 (Spring 2014)

18 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2013 Last revised: 17 Apr 2014

Andrew J. Hull

Independent

Date Written: February 28, 2013

Abstract

Despite blatant jury misconduct that can result in an improper guilty-verdict, the Federal Rules of Evidence, with few exceptions, prohibit testimony from a juror that such misconduct took place. Rule 606(b) specifically forbids such evidence, and the rule is seemingly based in a historic common law tradition.

Despite its lengthy tradition, history actually demonstrates that the rule embodied by Rule 606(b) is an anomaly that fails to comport with prior precedent and the holistic principles surrounding trial by jury. Furthermore, the policy of finality that supporters now use as the rationale for maintaining this rule at the cost of allowing blatant jury misconduct fails to find support in the common law tradition. As will be discussed further, Rule 606(b) should be amended to allow juror testimony of juror misconduct when such misconduct is not a part of the jury’s subjective deliberative process of reaching a verdict.

Part I of this paper describes the history of Rule 606(b) and its underlying policies. Part II discusses the origin of this rule — a case decided by the renowned Lord Mansfield — and questions its legitimacy as a bedrock principle in the common law tradition. Part III analyzes the policy of finality at the expense of overlooking certain juror misconduct in light of historical writings surrounding trial by jury. Finally, Part IV provides a suitable amendment to Rule 606(b) that embraces both a holistic understanding of a just trial by jury while also respecting the inviolate nature of the process of jury deliberation.

Keywords: Federal Rules of Evidence, FRE, 606(b), FRE 606(b), Mansfield's Rule, Mansfield, common law

Suggested Citation

Hull, Andrew J., Unearthing Mansfield's Rule: Analyzing the Appropriateness of Federal Rule of Evidence 606(B) in Light of the Common Law Tradition (February 28, 2013). Southern Illinois University Journal of Law, Volume 38 (Spring 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2245171 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2245171

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