Guidelines to Propriety of Inquiry Into Matters Occurring In the Jury Room

In Marks v. State Road Department, 69 So. 2d 771 (Fla. 1954), the Court established guidelines with respect to the propriety of inquiry into matters occurring in the jury room. In particular, this Court explained that affidavits of jurors may be received for the purpose of avoiding a verdict, to show any matter occurring during the trial or in the jury room, which does not essentially inhere in the verdict itself, as that a juror was improperly approached by a party, his agent, or attorney; that witnesses or others conversed as to the facts or merits of the cause, out of court and in the presence of jurors; that the verdict was determined by aggregation and average or by lot, or game of chance or other artifice or improper manner; but that such affidavit to avoid the verdict may not be received to show any matter which does essentially inhere in the verdict itself, as that the juror did not assent to the verdict; that he misunderstood the instructions of the Court; the statements of the witnesses or the pleadings in the case; that he was unduly influenced by the statements or otherwise of his fellow-jurors, or mistaken in his calculations or judgment, or other matter resting alone in the juror's breast. Id. at 774-75 (quoting Wright v. Illinois & Mississippi Telegraph Co., 20 Iowa 195, 210 (1866)); See also Devoney v. State, 717 So. 2d 501, 502 (Fla. 1998); McAllister Hotel, Inc., 123 So. 2d at 344. In considering claims of juror misconduct, a court must initially determine whether the facts alleged are matters that inhere in the verdict and are subjective in nature, or are extrinsic to the verdict and objective. See Devoney, 717 So. 2d at 502. A juror is not competent to testify about matters inhering in the verdict, such as jurors' emotions, mental processes, or mistaken beliefs. See Baptist Hosp. v. Maler, 579 So. 2d 97, 99 (Fla. 1991); State v. Hamilton, 574 So. 2d 124, 128 (Fla. 1991); see also 90.607(2)(b), Fla. Stat. (1999). However, jurors may testify as to "overt acts which might have prejudicially affected the jury in reaching their own verdict." Hamilton, 574 So. 2d at 128; See also Powell v. Allstate Ins. Co., 652 So. 2d 354, 356 (Fla. 1995) (holding that racial statements alleged to have been made during deliberations by some members of an all-white jury about black plaintiffs constituted sufficient overt acts which might have prejudicially affected jury in reaching its verdict).