The Situationist

Juror Bias

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 30, 2011

Jessica West recently posted her article, “12 Racist Men: Post-Verdict Evidence of Juror Bias” (Harvard Journal of Racial & Ethnic Justice, Vol. 27, p. 165, 2011) on SSRN. Here’s the abstract.

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Federal Evidence Rule 606(b) and similar state rules prohibit post-verdict admission of juror statements, including racist or biased remarks, made during deliberations. The roots of the evidentiary prohibition are historically deep and the interests underlying the Rule implicate the very existence of the jury system. Constitutionality of the post-verdict evidentiary exclusion is based upon the presumption that pre-trial and trial mechanisms exist to discern juror bias prior to deliberations. Empirical studies and recent cases indicate, however, that these mechanisms do not currently operate to adequately expose or remove juror biases. This article argues that the expansion of these mechanisms, including more diverse jury venires, more robust and effective juror voir dire, less discretion for parties to remove jurors on the basis of race, and the development of jury admonitions directly addressing bias, will reduce juror expressions of bias during deliberations. Even with these reforms, however, not all juror bias will be disclosed and, whether for reasons of embarrassment, inattention or intent, some jurors will misrepresent material biases during voir dire. To address juror misrepresentations during voir dire, the article proposes a narrow exception to Rule 606(b) permitting inquiry into juror bias for the purpose of showing juror misrepresentation. The article’s unique approach of combining enhanced pre-trial and trial mechanisms with a narrow exception to the rule to address juror misrepresentations strikes a balance between upholding the goals underlying Rule 606(b) and the right to a fair trial by an impartial jury.

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Download the paper for for free here.

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