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Eleventh Circuit rules that district court abused its discretion by not holding evidentiary hearing on alleged misstatements by prospective jurors during voir dire

On October 20, 2020, in Torres v. First Transit, Inc., No. 18-15186, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a SDFL district court order denying the defendant in a motor vehicle negligence case a new trial due to alleged juror misconduct.  According to the Eleventh Circuit, the defendant presented the District Court with clear, strong, substantial, and incontrovertible evidence that a specific, nonspeculative impropriety occurred—namely, court documents that, on their face, showed that two jurors gave dishonest and misleading responses on their juror questionnaires and on voir dire regarding their past involvement in lawsuits.  Citing prior legal precedents, the Eleventh stated that under these circumstances the district court should have held an evidentiary hearing prior to ruling on the motion for a new trial to adequately investigate the alleged juror misconduct. See. e.g., United States v. Cuthel, 903 F.2d 1381, 1382–83 (11th Cir. 1990). Instead, the district court simply found that the jurors’ misrepresentations did not suggest a lack of impartiality. The Eleventh Circuit concluded that the district court abused its discretion by failing to hold an evidentiary hearing.

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