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SCOTUS to decide if juror bias gets defendant a Sixth Amendment reprieve

On Behalf of | Dec 9, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

Bias can be a belief that is preconceived regardless of the facts. It is a type of prejudice–or something that is pre-judged–and may have a negative impact on the outcome of a decision. It can taint a process and render it unfair. When present in the mind of a juror, it could interfere with the fairness of a case in Colorado.

Is it fair?

The Supreme Court has to decide on an upcoming matter involving potential juror bias. The Justices have already ruled that biases hinder impartiality in cases. It has not affirmed, however, that such biases create a structural error in the case. The Sixth Amendment of the Constitution provides for an automatic reversal of the verdict should bias impact the outcome of a verdict. Because the Justices have not made a concrete decision on the matter of a structural error, they have received a cert petition to provide a definitive answer.

Back to the drawing board

The Supreme Court is revisiting the matter due to a man who received a 100-year sentence for felonies committed against his ex-wife and stepdaughter. The defendant became privy to information that one of the seated jurors was biased in a way that could negatively impact his case. One of the jurors confessed to having a preconceived notion that might make him an unsuitable candidate to serve on the jury. His girlfriend was a victim of the type of crime for which the defendant was convicted. For this reason, the defendant had hoped to unseat this juror but he was unsuccessful. Furthermore, the defendant has used up his peremptory strikes and had no further options available at his disposal before the case was decided. Afterward, however, he filed a for-cause motion to try and have his conviction overturned. He was still unsuccessful.

The defendant appealed his denial to his state’s supreme court. He believed that the juror’s stated bias was sufficient enough to constitute a structural error. This would have given him access to a Sixth Amendment reprieve and a re-adjudication of the case. Now that his case has gone to the Supreme Court of the US, the issue of structural error may finally be resolved.

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