What if after a jury verdict was established one of the parties tries to impeach that verdict with testimony or an affidavit of the jurors who returned it? The Court of Appeals recently addressed this issue and stated that it has long been established in Indiana law that the jury’s verdict cannot be impeached by testimony or from an affidavit of a juror who returned it.
In Martha Sienkowski v. Frederick E. Verschuure No. 46A03-1101-CT-5, after the jury verdict was announced, the plaintiff tried to impeach that verdict with testimony of one juror and an affidavit from another juror in an attempt to receive a new trial. The defendant filed a motion to vacate the judgment and the request for a new trial. The trial court issued its Order, granting the defendant’s motions to strike the letter and affidavit and denying plaintiff’s motion for a new trial. The plaintiff appealed.
The Court of Appeals reiterated that the jury verdict may not be impeached by the testimony or an affidavit of the juror who returned it. The policy behind this rule comes from Stinson v. State, 313 N.E.2d 699 (Ind. 1974). In Stinson, the Supreme Court showed concern by saying; “If this [c]ourt were to permit individual jurors to make affidavits or give testimony disclosing the manner of deliberation in the jury room and their version of the reasons for rendering a particular verdict, there would be no reasonable end to litigation. Jurors would be harassed by both sides of litigation and find themselves in a contest of affidavits and counter-affidavits and arguments and re-arguments as to why and how a certain verdict was reached. Such an unsettled state of affairs would be a disservice to the parties litigant and an unconscionable burden upon citizens who serve on juries.” The court did recognize exceptions under the Indiana Evidence Rule 606(b) where a juror may testify with respect to certain aspects of the trial. The three exceptions where testimony would be allowed concern: (1) drug or alcohol use by any juror, (2) the question of whether extraneous prejudicial information was improperly brought to the jury’s attention, or (3) whether any outside influence was improperly brought to bear upon any juror. None of those exceptions were present in this case.