A bus passes the US Supreme Court on January 31, 2017, in Washington.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
A bus passes the US Supreme Court on January 31, 2017, in Washington.

Story highlights

The case pitted secrecy rules in jury deliberations against the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of a fair and impartial jury

Miguel Angel Pena-Rodriguez was charged with unlawful sexual contact and harassment

CNN —  

The Supreme Court allowed a criminal defendant Monday to pierce the secrecy of jury deliberations to determine if his conviction was affected by racism.

The justices were considering the case of a juror in Colorado who urged other jurors to find a man guilty “because he’s Mexican and Mexicans take whatever they want.”

The court ruled 5-3.

The case pitted secrecy rules in jury deliberations against the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of a fair and impartial jury. The justices considered whether the so-called “no impeachment” rule – meant to protect the secrecy of jury deliberations and the finality of jury verdicts – should be pierced when the deliberations include racial bias.

Miguel Angel Pena-Rodriguez was charged with unlawful sexual contact and harassment after two girls testified that he groped them in a bathroom at a horse-racing track in Colorado. Their father, a track employee, called the police who caught up with Pena-Rodriguez later the same night. The girls positively identified him as their attacker and he was later convicted.

Pena-Rodriguez will next get a hearing in a lower court to try to prove his claim that the verdict was unconstitutionally biased.