Articles Posted in Jury

The Batson Challenge is a voir dire technique that separates the good lawyers from those that are deemed to be elite. The Batson Challenge, also known as the Batson Objection, is an objection. One party argues that the other has used the peremptory challenge to strike one or more prospective jurors from the panel for a discriminatory purpose in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection guarantee.

The Batson Challenge was born in the case of “Batson v. Kentucky” (476 U.S. 79; 1986). It is a challenge that was initially applied to racial discrimination in jury selection but is now also used when gender or sometimes ethnic background is an issue. The party objecting usually must establish by evidence a prima facie case of discrimination. The other party must then prove a neutral reason for the strike. To learn more about the Batson Challenge, we spoke to several of the top lawyers in the State of Michigan.

Matthew McManus is the Managing Member of McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and is known as one of the top research attorneys on the topic of jury selection.  McManus stated, “Jury selection is a topic that is highly overlooked in the criminal law sect. As many seasoned lawyers will tell you, the jury picks their team during voir dire. The Batson Challenge is utilized in different communities when a prosecutor is trying to stack the court in their favor.  Knowing how to utilize the challenge is essential to success.”

One of the keys to picking a proper jury is the study of the jury questionnaires. A jury questionnaire is a series of questions that the potential jury pool fills out and allows both the prosecutor and the defense to view. A generic jury questionnaire will tell the attorneys where the prospective juror lives. It will indicate what they do for a living if they have ever been charged with a crime, and other issues are explored depending upon who draws up the questions. The point of this is for the attorneys to gauge the preferences and biases of the jurors. The problem with this is that each county, and for that matter, each judge, has a different view on the availability of these questions.

“Geography”

The utilization of jury questionnaires varies from county to county. For example, in Shiawassee County, a judge such as Matthew Stewart will make sure that all sides have an ample opportunity to study the questions and maintain a fair trial.  In Washtenaw County, judges such as Cedric Simpson in district court and Archie Brown in circuit court are always concerned about fairness.  In Wayne County, there is a multitude of volumes, and the attorney may never get to study jury questionnaires, and in Caro, you will not obtain these documents until the morning of trial.  With such a lack of unity of law, the study of jurors becomes more complicated.

When a defense lawyer is faced with the challenge of picking a jury, one of the most important aspects they need to know is how to use a jury challenge. Jury challenges come in a variety of forms.  To have a better understanding of how to challenge jurors, we will present an outline of how this issue should be addressed. We will then obtain insight from some of the top lawyers in our state.

“Challenges”

Challenges to potential jurors come in two flavors:  A challenge for cause. A challenge for purpose is a challenge because there is a clear bias on behalf of the juror. Things such as racism, bigotry, family members involved in the case, friendships with the witnesses, and anything that could affect the objectivity of the jurors could lead to a challenge for cause. In Michigan, there is no limitation to challenges for cause, but making such a challenge is at the discretion of the judge that is in charge of the trial. The second type of challenge is the “Peremptory Challenge,” which is described in Michigan Legislature Section 768.13.

What if I told you that you were going to trial and your fate would be decided before anybody provided testimony?  Would you believe me?  Probably not, however, the reality is that the process of “Voir Dire” is the key to success in a criminal trial.

Voir Dire is a legal phrase for a variety of procedures connected with jury trials. It originally referred to an oath taken by jurors, to tell the truth (Latin: Verum dicere), i.e., to say what is right, what is objectively accurate or subjectively honest, or both. In Michigan, we use the term Voir Dire to discuss jury selection.

In the State of Michigan, the concept of jury selection can be a complex one.  To study this issue, we break the topic down to jury questionnaires, challenges, and social media research.  Today, we will discuss the topic broadly.  To gain insight into the issue of voir dire, we spoke to several of the top lawyers in our state.

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