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Name: Taylor v. Sisto
Case #: 09-15341
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 05/25/2010

The trial judge’s preinstruction to the jury that each juror disregard his or her own life experience deprived appellant of his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment right to trial by an impartial jury. The Sacramento County Superior Court judge instructed prospective jurors to put their biases and prejudices into a metaphorical "box" at the doorway of the courtroom, in essence to shed their life experiences while acting as jurors. Questions about the "box" came up during the questioning of 10 potential jurors, 8 of whom were dismissed and who either had difficulty with the admonition or did not understand it. The issue was upheld through state court proceedings though the district court of appeals characterized the preinstruction as "a bit odd." The majority in the Ninth Circuit opinion held that the preinstruction involved the right to an impartial jury under the Sixth Amendment and the error in preinstructing the jury to discard their knowledge was fundamental and fatal. The court analyzed several Supreme Court jury pool cases and held that "[t]he holdings of the Supreme Court confirm that an impartial jury is one that applies common sense informed by the full range of human experience." The dissent relied on AEDPA limitations and argues that the U.S. Supreme Court has never directly ruled on this instruction about the use of life experiences by jurors and the state court decision was not objectively unreasonable.