The U.S. Constitution guarantees that a person charged with a crime has the right to a jury trial. So does the Colorado constitution. For a jury trial to be fair to the defendant, the jury must be made up of individuals who are as neutral as possible. The jury cannot include people with preconceptions or prejudices regarding the defendant or the charges against them before trial begins.
Before trial, the judge, prosecutor and defense attorney all get a chance to ask prospective jurors questions to try to determine if these individuals are fit to serve on the jury for the particular case before them. However, they must rely on the jurors’ honesty. If a juror gives a misleading or outright dishonest answer, they could destroy the impartiality of the jury and the defendant’s right to a fair trial.
Murder conviction overturned
This issue recently led to the dramatic overturning of three murder convictions against a Boulder County man. The man was convicted last year, but his attorneys filed an appeal shortly afterward based on the answers two of the jurors gave on their questionnaires. The judge has since agreed that the answers they gave were not truthful and relevant to the case, because they had to do with whether they or their relatives had ever been charged with a crime.
Two of the jurors answered “no,” but in fact should have answered “yes.” One of them admitted after trial that she and her husband had been charged with child endangerment and abuse, and their child also faced criminal charges year afterward. The other juror later told the court that his three children all had problems with the law in their pasts.
In her decision to overturn the conviction, the judge concluded that the female juror’s reasoning for her lie — to protect her family’s reputation — and her seemingly “habitual evasion and dishonesty” regarding the issue put her impartiality into question.
“Her ability to perform her duty as an impartial juror was compromised from the start,” the judge wrote. She ordered a new trial on the murder and aggravated robbery charges the defendant was convicted of.
Give yourself a chance at a fair trial
When charged with a serious violent crime like murder, you need strong representation from an experienced criminal defense attorney. That is the best way of ensuring you get a fair trial.