Friday, February 08, 2019

Petitioner's Due Process Claims Based on Allegedly Sleeping Juror and Jury's Exposure to Media Rejected

Smith v. Aldridge, 2018 WL 4394997 (10th Cir. 9/17/18) (Okla.) – In a 28 USC § 22554 habeas case, the Tenth rejects the following three claims that the state court unreasonably determined the facts; there was no argument that the state court decision was contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law. Smith had been convicted of enabling child abuse of her two-year-old daughter. She argued:

(1) she was denied her right to an impartial jury and due process because a juror slept during much of the trial. She submitted five juror affidavits and two affidavits from trial attendees supporting that fact. However, the trial judge asserted that he watched the jury carefully and only saw one juror sleeping at one point during the trial. It was reasonable for the state court to conclude that the judge's statement was more persuasive than the affidavits and to credit the judge's statement without holding an evidentiary hearing. Although the trial judge did not have the benefit of the five juror affidavits when he concluded no juror continuously slept, he made firsthand observations of the trial. There were five lawyers in the courtroom and the fact that none of them complained about a sleeping juror supports the judge's belief that no juror slept throughout the trial. AEDPA barred the Tenth from ordering an evidentiary hearing because the requirements of § 2254(d) and (e)(2) were not met.

(2) her counsel ineffectively failed to ask the court to do something about the sleeping juror. For the same reasons it rejected the first claim, the Tenth decides counsel did not thereby afford ineffective assistance.

(3) violation of the right to an impartial jury and due process based on the jury's exposure to outside information and prejudicial media coverage. The state court concluded Smith failed to establish any alleged misconduct prejudiced her. The trial court took significant steps to ensure that jurors were not exposed to extraneous outside information and allowed a change of venue. Only three jurors said they had previously heard of the case. Even if some jurors accessed some extraneous information, there was no showing that the state court unreasonably concluded that exposure did not result in prejudice.