My work sometimes has me reviewing trial transcripts. In jury selection, it is critical the defense attorney ferret out those jurors who cannot be “impartial” as that term is defined by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
In Morgan v. Illinois, 504 U.S. 719 (1992), the United States Supreme Court held: “part of the guarantee of a defendant's right to an impartial jury is an adequate voir dire to identify unqualified jurors.” The Supreme Court also held that “general questions of fairness and impartiality” are not sufficient to determine whether a juror is constitutionally qualified to serve on a criminal jury.
When an attorney views a question such as, “can you be fair and impartial in this case,” as “the magic question,” I am disturbed. Needless to say, “can you be fair and impartial in this case” is not a “magic question” in jury selection. In fact, it is virtually useless.
When your freedom is on the line, make sure you have an attorney who knows the law and understands how to use the law to ask meaningful questions for jury selection. There are few things that are more important.