The voir dire stage of the trial can help the court find a jury willing to hear a case without prejudice. Much discussion of this phase focuses on how and attorneys remove jurors to craft what each side thinks is the most favorable jury. Voir dire, however, also gives potential jurors the chance to acknowledge their own biases and, essentially, recuse themselves. In such cases, the judge can remove a juror and spare the attorneys the use of peremptory challenges. Skeptics might doubt that prospective jurors would pass up the chance to act on their own biases, but this happens with some regularity.
The good people at Harpers provide a delightful example from the recent trial of Martin Shkreli, which resulted in a conviction. First, Harpers provides context:
[Shkreli was] an investor and hedge fund founder who is facing eight counts of securities and wire fraud. In 2015, when Shkreli was CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, the company raised the price of its drug Daraprim by 5,000 percent. In 2016, Shkreli was widely criticized for defending the 400 percent increase in the price of EpiPen, an emergency allergy injection sold by Mylan.
In the end, more than two-hundred prospective jurors were excused, and here’s an example of why the judge asked so many to leave during voir dire.
Judge: The purpose of jury selection is to ensure fairness and impartiality in this case. If you think that you could not be fair and impartial, it is your duty to tell me. All right. Juror #1.
Juror #1: I’m aware of the defendant and I hate him.
Defense Attorney: I’m sorry.
Juror #1: I think he’s a greedy little man.
Judge: Jurors are obligated to decide the case based only on the evidence. Do you agree?
Juror #1: I don’t know if I could. I wouldn’t want me on this jury.
Judge: Juror #1 is excused.
It only gets better. Read on for more stories of prospective jurors throwing shade on a shady defendant these citizens knew they couldn’t judge impartially.