One of the rights granted to defendants in criminal cases under the Sixth Amendment is the right to a fair trial with an unbiased jury. Finding 12 impartial jurors is a much more challenging task than it sounds, and not just in small towns where everyone knows everyone and no one minds their own business. Jury selection is just one of the ways that a criminal defense lawyer’s work before the trial is as important as the arguments and exhibits that the defense lawyer presents to the jury during the trial. A Texas criminal defense lawyer can help you exercise your right to a fair trial and protect you from juror bias and its consequences.
What Does It Mean to Be an Unbiased Juror?
A fair trial involves jurors, and jurors are human; you would not want 12 chatbots to decide whether there is reasonable doubt about your guilt. Being a juror requires human judgment, and humans base their judgment on their previous experiences and make decisions by recognizing patterns. All of this means that everyone has biases about almost everything, which means that a truly unbiased jury is virtually impossible to achieve. Consider that everyone who has ever had a job or a debit card, in other words, everyone who is old enough to serve on a jury, has some idea of what a fraudulent transaction is.
The most basic requirement for an impartial jury is that they do not have prior knowledge of the alleged crime or the people connected to it. This used to be fairly easy to achieve unless the case had dominated local or national news headlines for multiple days. Today, the chances that randomly selected people from your county have heard about the charges against you are considerably higher, even if you are not famous. Your local police department’s Twitter account might have tweeted about it, and people who have enough free time that their work or family caregiving obligations do not exempt them from jury duty might compulsively follow the 24-hour news cycle, including social media accounts about local issues.
How to Reduce Juror Bias in Your Trial
In a perfect world, it would be easy to find 12 people who have enough free time for jury duty but who do not have social media stoking their fears about crime 24 hours a day. During the jury selection process, the prosecution, defense lawyer, and judge can ask questions to prospective jurors to try to determine whether the jurors have biases about the case that would make it impossible for them to return a fair verdict. The process of interviewing jurors prior to selecting them is called voir dire. Your criminal defense lawyer can think of the right questions that can help the court identify the jurors who have the greatest chance of giving you a fair trial.
Contact the Law Office of Patrick J. McLain, PLLC About Criminal Defense Cases