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Name: United States v. Rutherford
Case #: 03-10158
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 06/10/2004

Appellants were found guilty of two counts of tax evasion. They appealed the district court’s denial of their motion for a new trial based on grounds of jury intimidation, tampering, and misconduct. They argued that the jury was prejudiced because a large number of IRS and government agents sat behind the prosecution table glaring at the jurors during the trial. The juror were intimidated and feared that if they acquitted appellants, the IRS agents might retaliate against them. Further, they contended the district court improperly limited the scope of the evidentiary hearing and impeded their ability to make a prima facie showing that the jurors were adversely affected by the conduct. Further, they contended that the trial court erred when it concluded that they must prove that the agents “intended” to influence the jurors, and that they only had to show that the actions of the agents created a risk that the verdict might be influenced. The appellate court agreed with the last two points and reversed. The district court applied the wrong legal standard and improperly limited the scope of the evidentiary hearing. Remand was required to allow the parties to introduce evidence regarding the jurors’ perceptions of the agents’ conduct, and any discussions which occurred among the jury concerning IRS retaliation if they voted to acquit. If the agents’ conduct raised a risk of influencing the verdict, the presumption of prejudice should be applied, and the verdicts set aside.