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Name: Tong Xiong v. Felkner
Case #: 09-16830
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 06/05/2012

Where the jury receives extrinsic evidence during trial, this is misconduct and there is a strong presumption of prejudice that can be overcome by the state. Petitioner was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to prison for life. Following his conviction, defense counsel learned of possible juror misconduct rising from alleged discussion by the jurors of the out-of-court demeanor by a witness. Petitioner filed a motion for a new trial on the ground of jury misconduct. The motion was denied. On federal review, the court considered whether petitioner’s due process rights were violated when the trial court construed California law to allow jurors to refuse to discuss their alleged misconduct posttrial and whether petitioner was deprived of a fair trial as a result of jury misconduct. With respect to the first issue, the claim was procedurally defaulted. A federal court will not review a question of federal law where the state court’s decision rests on an independent and adequate state ground. Here, the California Court of Appeal held that petitioner forfeited his claim by failing to object at trial and his forfeiture under state law constituted a procedural default. As to the second issue, the federal court found that the state court did not unreasonably apply U.S. Supreme Court precedent as explained in Mattox v. United States (1892) 146 U.S. 140. Extraneous material considered by the jury is misconduct and has a strong presumption of prejudice but is not per se prejudicial. Here, the state court made a reasonable factual determination that petitioner was not prejudiced either by the extrinsic evidence’s influence or actual bias.