If you’ve been to court or watched trial proceedings on television, you likely know the incredible importance of the jury. America’s founding fathers gave citizens the right to a trial by jury to prevent an oppressive government from having too much power. The jury plays a pivotal role in our nation’s justice system, helping decide the fate of those on trial. An unbiased jury ensures the fairness of a verdict by preventing an appointed judge from making unjust decisions. However, many people question whether an unbiased jury is ever truly possible.
The Weight of Public Opinion
The public nature of today’s crimes and trials make it difficult to collect a jury that has not heard about or already developed an opinion on a specific case. Dozens of local and national news stations broadcast information—verified or not—to the masses, swaying public opinion expressly or implicitly. The media may use loaded language to describe a crime, or criminal “experts” may be interviewed, weighing in on the case and providing professional (or personal) opinions for all to hear.
With the vast reach and power of modern media, it is hard to believe that all members of a jury can be properly sequestered in time to truly minimize public opinion’s influence. In a particularly high-profile or publicized case, the judge can sequester a jury or isolate them from the public for some or all of the trial. This prevents outside influences from contacting the jury, including newspapers and television stations. Unfortunately, the media’s influence extends far beyond case-specific broadcasts.
The Modern Media Culture
Today, most if not all people selected to sit on a jury are exposed to some type of media that portrays the legal system. Whether it is a popular television show such as Law and Order or Making a Murderer or a live feed of a high-profile trial, such as the infamous Casey Anthony case, the media feeds the modern culture’s desire to see the legal system portrayed on TV. Unfortunately, a lifetime of seeing these portrayals can sway a juror’s way of thinking.
With this in mind, it is virtually impossible to have a jury with all members completely unbiased in one way or another. The goal becomes finding a jury with the least amount of bias. While the courts cannot stop the press from publishing true information about criminal trials, the courts can find other ways to minimize the media’s impact on a trial’s fairness.
Court Tactics to Ensure the Fairness of a Jury
If it is believed that pre-trial publicity will harm a defendant’s case, the attorney can request a change of venue. This moves the trial out of the city where the crime took place. However, when publicity is national, this may not be effective. The defendant also has certain rights. A defendant can dismiss a potential juror believed to have a bias. The judge and prosecutor can dismiss jurors as well.
Jurors are selected by the courts from a jury pool. The jury pool must have a fair mix of people from the community who represent the community without disclosing distinct groups. Then, the courts must select jurors at random from the pool. The potential jurors then undergo questioning, in which the courts decide whether jurors will be impartial. Both the defendant and the prosecutor’s attorneys can ask questions. Either attorney can challenge a juror that they believe has bias and request to disqualify the juror from the jury. In the end, no one can ensure a jury is 100% unbiased, but the courts come as close as possible.
If you have been accused of a crime, it is important to understand jury opinion and have a skilled criminal defense attorney that knows how to assess and create an impartial jury. Contact De Castroverde Law Group today for help. Call 702-222-9999.