United States v. Rodriguez, No. 10-1984 (1st Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
After a jury convicted defendant as a felon in possession of a firearm, the trial judge learned that a pocket-sized New Testament Bible was found in the jury deliberation room. The judge notified defense counsel, who immediately moved for a new trial, arguing violation of the Sixth Amendment rights to a trial before an impartial jury and to confront witnesses. The judge rejected a request to recall each juror for individual voir dire. The judge denied a second motion for a new trial, arguing that the prosecutor made improper comments during closing and rebuttal arguments. The First Circuit affirmed, first rejecting a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. Defendant waived his Confrontation Clause argument. The district court’s decision to question only the foreman about whether the Bible influenced deliberations was within its discretion. Even if the prosecutor’s statements about defendant’s failure to explain himself were improper, they were not prejudicial in light of their brevity, the amount of evidence of guilt, and a curative instruction.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on April 11, 2012.