DUCKWORTH v. OWEN
452 U.S. 951 (1981)

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U.S. Supreme Court

DUCKWORTH v. OWEN , 452 U.S. 951 (1981)

452 U.S. 951

Jack R. DUCKWORTH, Warden
v.
Richard Lee OWEN, II
No. 80-1659

Supreme Court of the United States

June 15, 1981

On petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

The motion of the respondent for leave to proceed in forma pauperis is granted. The petition for writ of certiorari is denied.

Justice REHNQUIST, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE joins, dissenting.

The question presented in this habeas corpus case is whether the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit correctly held that respondent's challenges to his conviction should be governed by the Federal Rules of Evidence rather than state criminal law. Because I believe that the Court of Appeals has confused the applicability of the Federal Rules of Evi-

Page 452 U.S. 951 , 952

dence with the permissible limits of its inquiry in a federal habeas proceeding, I dissent from the denial of the petition for certiorari.

During the course of respondent's criminal trial, one of the jurors received an anonymous telephone call that she considered threatening. She reported this call to the trial judge who conducted an in camera hearing and determined that she was capable of rendering an impartial verdict. In a post-conviction proceeding, respondent asserted that the juror subsequently told other jurors about this call, which constituted juror misconduct and introduced a prejudicial influence into the deliberations. The Public Defender, who had contacted 10 of the 12 jurors, testified that 8 jurors responded to questions regarding their knowledge of a telephone threat during the trial. The trial court refused to grant a mistrial based on these allegations. The Supreme Court of Indiana affirmed. Owen v. State, 269 Ind. 513, 381 N.E.2d 1235 (1978). It relied on Indiana state law which prohibits the interrogation of jurors for the purpose of impeaching a jury verdict.

Respondent then petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus. The District Court denied the writ, finding no constitutional error in the state-court ruling or procedure. The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed. 645 F.2d 74 (1980). It concluded that the Federal Rules of Evidence govern federal habeas proceedings, not Indiana law. Fed.Rule Evid. 1101(c). The evidentiary question is thus governed by Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b), which permits a juror to testify as to whether prejudicial information was brought to bear on any juror, not the contrary Indiana law.* [452 U.S. 951 , 953]


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