It is common practice for potential jurors in Pennsylvania to be dismissed from a case due to their personal beliefs. However, jurors in Massachusetts will no longer be dismissed for their world views if they are capable of being impartial and fair, according to a recent ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
The case before the court involved a black male defendant who was convicted of possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute during a jury trial. During the jury selection process, a woman expressed her opinion that the U.S. justice system was prejudiced against black men. She was later excused from the jury over the objections of the defendant’s lawyer. The defendant appealed his conviction on the basis of the juror’s dismissal.
In her majority opinion, an SJC justice wrote that it is impossible and undesirable to dismiss jury members who may bring world views and life experiences into the courtroom. As a result, she concluded that the judge was wrong to dismiss the juror. In a concurring opinion, another justice wrote that jurors should be selected based on their capacity to be fair and impartial, not upon particular beliefs or world views. However, he believed the judge was correct to dismiss the juror on the basis of perceived impartiality. As an example, he wrote that it would be correct to question whether a professed white supremacist could be fair and impartial in a trial involving a black defendant.
An individual facing criminal charges could help their situation by working with a criminal defense attorney. Legal counsel could represent the defendant’s interests in court and work to get the charges dismissed. If the case goes to trial, the attorney could help identify people who could fairly and impartially serve on the jury.