Tanner v. United States Case Brief

Why is the case important?

Petitioner No. 1, Conover (“petitioner No. 1”), used his position as Seminole Electric Cooperative’s procurement manager to help his friend, petitioner No. 2, Tanner (“petitioner No. 2”), obtain a bid for a construction project for which a loan had been guaranteed by an agency of the United States. After petitioner No. 1 and petitioner No. 2 were convicted, two jurors came forward and revealed rampant drug and alcohol use by the jury during the trial and deliberations.

Facts of the case

Anthony Tanner and William Conover were indicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States and of mail fraud. After the jury ruled, Tanner and Conover filed a motion for a new trial based on an affidavit stating that several jurors consumed alcohol during lunch breaks. The district court held an evidentiary hearing and denied relief, holding that juror testimony was inadmissible to impeach a jury verdict under Rule 606(b). There was insufficient evidence other than that testimony of juror misconduct. Tanner and Conover filed another motion, this time alleging juror use of alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine during the trial. The district court declined to hold another evidentiary hearing. On appeal the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit affirmed the convictions, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to hold a second evidentiary hearing.

Question

Was the District Court required to hold an evidentiary hearing including juror testimony on juror drug and alcohol use during the trial?
Did Seminole’s petitioner No. 2’s actions constitute a conspiracy to defraud the United States within the meaning of 18 USC Section: 371?

Answer

The District Court did not err in refusing to hold an evidentiary hearing at which jurors would testify on juror alcohol and drug use during the trial.
The argument that Seminole, as a recipient of federal financial assistance and supervision must be treated as the United States under 18 USC Section: 371 is untenable.

Conclusion

The court held that the refusal to admit juror testimony was supported by Fed. R. Evid. 606(b) because it allowed a post-verdict inquiry only in cases of substantial, if not wholly conclusive, evidence of incompetency. The protection of jury deliberations from intrusive inquiry outweighed defendants’ rights to inquire into the deliberations, especially in light of the insufficiency of non-juror evidence. As to defendants’ concerns regarding the conspiracy count, the Court held that a conspiracy to defraud the United States could be effected by the use of third parties. Because 18 U.S.C.S. § 371 covered only conspiracies to defraud the United States or any agency thereof, however, the action was remanded for a determination as to whether the evidence showed that defendants’ conspiracy to defraud the utility company involved misrepresentations to the REA.

  • Case Brief: 1987
  • Petitioner: Anthony R. Tanner, William M. Conover
  • Respondent: United States
  • Decided by: Rehnquist Court

Citation: 483 US 107 (1987)
Argued: Mar 31, 1987
Decided: Jun 22, 1987
Granted Nov 3, 1986