How far will someone go to avoid jury duty? While many suggest that pretending to be a racist is a common juror escape strategy, I question how many people are willing to take this route. Moreover, I tend to believe that anyone who is so unbalanced as to publicly present themselves as a devout racist (truthfully or not) would be a poor juror on any case.
However, is punishing this behavior really a good idea? A Federal judge in New York thinks so. Judge Nicholas Garaufis was so angry at a woman for racist comments during voir dire that he punished her with “indefinite” jury service. The Asian woman in her 20’s suggested on a juror questionnaire that those people she “least admired” were “African-Americans, Hispanics and Haitians.” (Who knew racists would use the term African-American?)
While we may hold her opinion in moral contempt, it is very dangerous to start holding it in legal contempt. “Voir dire” (to speak truth) is dependent on jurors giving honest (or honest-ish) answers. Being punitive towards jurors’ attitudes or opinions that we disagree with can only reduce the number of honest responses. As a result, we are more likely to end up with biased jurors.
The most important question is: "What if she hadn't said anything?"
Blogger: Matt McCusker