In September 2012, a 56-year-old man and his 19-year-old son were killed. According to the LaCrosse Tribune, a jury convicted a Minnesota man on armed robbery and homicide charges. He received the maximum sentence possible of consecutive life terms plus 30 years, all without the possibility of release. Now, he is appealing the decision after learning that nine of the 12 jurors may have been biased against him.
Impeding the right to a fair trial
The man’s new criminal defense attorney stated that the defendant was denied his constitutionally guaranteed right to a fair trial and impartial jury. The attorney has criticized the trial lawyers for failing to pursue indicators that the majority of jurors were biased.
Prior to the trial, three jurors admitted they thought the defendant was guilty. Another juror thought that in general, defendants are probably guilty and, in some cases, are presumed guilty until proven innocent. Seven of the jurors answered a question, prior to trial, stating that police are more believable than other witnesses. In light of these biases, the man has asked the judge to grant him a new trial. If his request is denied, he may take his case to an appeals court.
Defining juror bias
There are several ways in which an individual juror may exhibit bias during the selection process. The judge presiding over a trial asks potential jurors questions regarding, or related to, the case. Should attorneys on either side believe there may be jury bias, they may ask the judge to dismiss the juror. The National Legal Research Group reports that potential bias indicators include the following:
- A juror who has the same background as a witness, victim or other party involved in the trial – Such as a juror, who is a former law enforcement officer, hearing a case involving the murder of a police officer.
- A juror who holds membership with a group that has taken a position on the matter at hand – Such as a juror, who belongs to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, hearing a case in which someone is accused of driving under the influence.
- A juror who shares an experience related to the case – Such as someone who has been a victim of a robbery hearing a case about an alleged burglary.
Attorneys should thoroughly vet a jury in order to ensure that there is no potential for bias. However, as in the case of the Minnesota man, there are still ways that prejudiced jurors can be approved for a trial. People who want more information regarding the jury selection process should consult with an attorney.