Presented as part of the American Board of Trial Advocates‘ Masters in Trial on Jury Selection, September 23, 2011
In 1899 the Supreme Court of California, in Lombardi v. California Street Railway Company, 124 Cal.311, held:
The right to unbiased and unprejudiced jurors is an inseparable and inalienable part of the right of trial by jury, guaranteed by the constitution. The common law excludes jurors upon the ground of actual bias, and the only important statutory exception to that rule relates to opinions based on public rumor, published statements, or common notoriety, in which case the juror may show that he can and will, notwithstanding such opinion, act impartially and fairly on matters submitted to him.
The prospective juror had been asked: “Do you know of any reason why you cannot give a fair and impartial trial in this case”? The prospective juror replied that he knew the plaintiff and his family, and had dealings with them for years. The juror was candid, honest and sincere in his statement, and the Supreme Court quoted Sir Edward Coke, discussing the right to trial by jury: “For all which the rule of law is that he must stand indifferent as he stands unsworn.
Wainwright v. Witt (1985) 496 U.S. 412 held: “If a juror cannot follow or is even substantially impaired from following the law, that is a cause challenge.”
California Code of Civil Procedure Section 229, Implied Bias: “The law presumes a prospective juror is biased and therefore disqualified if any of the following conditions exist: related by blood or marriage to a party or witness; had a relationship (fiduciary, domestic or business); was a prior juror or witness in litigation involving a party; has an interest in the litigation; has an unqualified opinion as to the merits based on knowledge of material facts; has an enmity or bias toward a party.”
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