No clearly established federal law holds that juror misconduct occurs when jurors observe a private actor’s courtroom conduct during a witness’ testimony. Turner was convicted in California of attempted carjacking (Pen. Code, §§ 664/ 215, subd. (a)) and gun use causing great bodily injury (Pen. Code, § 12022.53, subd. (d)). At trial, the victim could not remember identifying Turner as his assailant shortly after the crime. Following his conviction, Turner filed a motion for new trial based on juror misconduct. He stated that the jury had observed a woman in the courtroom shaking her head as the victim testified. The jurors believed the woman was the victim’s mother and had interpreted the conduct as directing the victim not to identify Turner. The state courts rejected this claim. He sought federal writ relief. The district court denied his petition. He appealed. Held: Affirmed. AEDPA establishes a highly deferential standard of review for a federal court evaluating state-court rulings. Relief may only be granted where the last reasoned state-court decision resulted in a holding that was contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the U.S. Supreme Court (the holding, as opposed to dicta). There is no such clearly established law with respect to a jury viewing a court spectator’s acts, unless the acts are state-sponsored courtroom practices. Turner’s case involved private-actor courtroom conduct. Further, Turner cited no Supreme Court decision holding that the jury’s consideration of such an act is misconduct in the first place.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2016/04/14/13-56385.pdf