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Name: Smith v. Swarthout
Case #: 11-17116
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 02/10/2014
Summary

Defendant did not show that juror’s failure to disclose that he knew defendant was intentional, or that a correct response would have provided a valid challenge for cause. Smith assaulted his wife and forced a number of pills down her throat. He was charged with attempted murder and other offenses. A jury convicted him of corporal injury to his spouse and criminal threats; he admitted two strike priors. Smith received a life sentence. On appeal from denial of his federal writ petition, Smith made a number of claims involving jury misconduct. Held: Affirmed. To obtain a new trial based on a juror’s nondisclosure of information during voir dire, a defendant must show the juror wilfully failed to honestly answer a material question, the correct response to which would reflect a lack of impartiality. (McDonough Power Equip., Inc. v. Greenwood (1984) 464 U.S. 548, 556.) Here, Juror No. 6 failed to reveal a prior knowledge of Smith or that he had read about the case. However, the juror explained his failure to respond, to the satisfaction of the trial court. In addition, Juror No. 6 looked at the labels of his wife’s medicine bottles, did an Internet search, which he lied about, and discussed his findings with fellow jurors. However, a jury’s receipt of extraneous information is subject to a harmless error analysis which requires a determination whether the error had a substantial and injurious effect or influence on the jury’s verdict. (Brecht v. Alabama (1993) 507 U.S. 619.) Here, the jury had already reached a verdict on the two substantive counts before Juror No. 6 made his disclosure. The trial court declared a mistrial as to the remaining counts and great bodily injury enhancement based on the misconduct. Thus, Juror No. 6’s consideration of extrinsic evidence did not influence the verdicts on the two substantive counts of conviction.