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United States v. Bass (1993) – Case Brief Summary (Federal Court)

In United States v. Bass, 10 F.3d 256 (5th Cir. 1993), the defendant was tried in federal court on charges of interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle and interstate transportation of stolen firearms.

On the second day of trial, two jurors read a newspaper article reporting that the defendant had been charged with capital murder of the owner of the vehicle he had allegedly stolen.

One juror stated that the article would not affect her ability to make a decision based solely on the evidence presented at trial.

The other juror was more equivocal about her ability to do so. She was not dismissed, but was named an alternate and did not participate in the deliberations.

The United States District Court refused to grant a mistrial based on the jurors having read the article, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

Significantly, the decision of the Court of Appeals to affirm was based on the fact that the article reported only other charges and, hence, it was less prejudicial than articles which reported prior convictions.