B. THE RIGHT JUROR
From MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges
- 1. Each lawyer wants to select the "right" jurors, that is, jurors who will decide in the client's favor. Or if that is too much to hope for at the outset, the "right" jurors are those who are not predisposed to find against the lawyer's client.
- 2. From the standpoint of the law, the "right" juror is an impartial juror. In my view that is a juror who is both willing and able to be neutral, open minded, and fair. These terms mean:
- a. Neutral, does not start out favoring or disfavoring any party or claim:: or issue or witness or lawyer or other matter in the case.
- b. Open minded, will not make up his or her mind until all the evidence has been presented, the judge has instructed on the law, the lawyers have given their final arguments, and there has been an ample opportunity for each juror to participate in deliberations.
- c. Fair, will base the verdict only on the evidence actually presented, the fair inferences to be drawn from that evidence, and the law, and will not use an anything else to arrive at a decision.
- 3. On the issue of the "right" juror, three cases should be noted
- a. State v. Andrews, 165 N.W.2d 528, 534 (Minn. 1969):
"The test of an impartial juror is not that he shall be completely ignorant of the facts and the issue, but that he can lay aside his impression or opinion and render a verdict based on the evidence presented in court."
- b. State v. Howard, 324 N.W.2d 216, 220 (Minn. App. 1982):
A juror must simply try to undertake the case fairly, and the trial judge, being in the best position to observe the demeanor of the prospective juror, is to be given deference in determining whether the juror should be removed for cause.
- c. State v. Larson, 447 N.W.2d 593, 599 600 (Minn. App. 1989). In this criminal sexual conduct case, a panel member said that her feelings regarding sex abuse cases could possibly affect her approach to the case. She survived a challenge for cause. The appellate court affirmed the denial of the challenge saying:
Upon voir dire, the juror indicated that she 'Would try" to be unbiased, that she had success doing so in the past and that she did not have "any difficulty with the concept that the purpose of a juror is to determine whether or not there was abuse." However, she subsequently stated that her sympathy for abuse victims "may" get in the way of impartially determining whether abuse had occurred, but she would "try to set it aside."
Thus, the "right" juror can be one who knows something about the issues involved and who has some "leanings" but who also understands the nature and importance of the requirement of impartiality and is willing to try to be impartial.