Who’s to say whether a juror has bias? (part 2)

In the previous post, I ruminated on the fact that each juror gets scrutinized for bias, even after pledging their neutrality. Again, there are reasons for doing so, but the near-presumption of bias goes unquestioned.

To see how far this can go, consider this gem from the Chicago Tribune:

The city of Chicago’s top attorney came to federal court Thursday to address concerns raised by a judge about a recent criminal background check that the city did on a juror who had already been questioned and seated for a police misconduct trial…
Private attorneys representing the city said they became suspicious about a juror’s demeanor and had city investigators run his arrest record. The check revealed that the juror had allegedly concealed an arrest history with Chicago police, and the judge in the trial removed him from the panel. He was one of only two African-American jurors on the panel. The remaining seven jurors ruled in the city’s favor and didn’t award any money to the family.

Here, the government goes so far as to use its own resources to scrutinize an empaneled juror. Such intensive investigation of jurors is common only in the movies, and it’s indicative again of this problem–that lay citizens are subject to regular scrutiny generally not applied to public agencies and officials.

How far does this go? At what point should citizens begin to feel wary of answering a jury summons, lest that subject them to prodding and investigation more commonly associated with seeking a job in law enforcement?

About jgastil

John Gastil is Head and Professor in the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences at The Pennsylvania State University, where he specializes in political deliberation and group decision making.
This entry was posted in Jury structure and reform, Public/media views of juries, Summoning juries, Voir dire and jury selection. Bookmark the permalink.

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