Useless SJQ Proposed in Criminal Trial

It still astounds me how unaware the court system and some attorneys are regarding juror bias and prejudice.  In this article (click for link – http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2011/02/09/prosecutors-juror-questionnaire-unnecessary-in-rajaratnam-case/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+wsj%2Flaw%2Ffeed+%28WSJ.com%3A+Law+Blog%29&utm_content=Google+Reader ), federal prosecutors argue for two completely useless questions as the entire basis of a supplemental juror questionnaire:

“In their filing, prosecutors suggested the court, if it wants to use a questionnaire, only ask two questions: would serving on the jury impose a hardship and is there any reason the individual couldn’t serve as a “fair and impartial juror.”

Why are these questions useless?  Because they give jurors no permission to answer honestly.  Almost every juror will state a hardship reason (and these days, many are valid).  As for reasons the juror may not be “fair and impartial,” most jurors will say the politically correct answer.  Of course they can be fair and impartial – who wants to think they themselves could not be fair?  No one.  To get any sort of useful and reliable answers, you need to ask questions in a manner that lowers the barriers to “impermissible” answers.  Give jurors some examples of why they might not be able to be fair.  For example:

Some people believe that if the federal government is coming after someone and that person has already been indicted by a grand jury, that they most likely did the crime they are accused of.  Others think that’s not necessarily true.  Which one are you a little bit closer to?

This is not to mention the fact that the questionnaire should have many more questions than the two the prosecutors are requesting, but that’s a topic for another novel.

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Filed under Juror Questionnaires, Voir Dire

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