How does jury selection work in the state of Maine? Does our system consistently give us fair and impartial juries? In this video founding partner Devens Hamlen takes a look at some of these important questions that have a huge impact on jury trials.
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Below is a transcript of the video:
How Does Jury Selection Work In Maine?
In Maine you get basically in a felony case you get what I started calling sort of a sub panel. So you have a 120 juror pool that you are picking jurors from. It’s whittled down to about 32 jurors where then you get peremptory challenges. It’s whittled down to basically a smaller pool of 32 jurors.
The way my case I had proposed is that I’d be able to start to ask questions to those 32 jurors and if I get to make a challenges for causes meaning I don’t think this person can be fair and impartial based on the answers they make, then that person would be removed from the jury pool and they would bring in someone else. The type of questions I was going to ask were let’s say you were white or who you were, you walk into a court room and the judge is black, your attorney is black, every juror is black, the prosecutor is black, how would you feel?
Would that make you feel nervous, would it make you feel that you couldn’t get like fair trial, and you sort of try and put the jurors in the shoes of your client in terms of what it feels like to walk into a court room that 99% of the people in there are white and you might be lack or Asian or you know Latino or Latina whatever it is. Jurors start to think about why that might be problematic and why that might cause people to be basically unfair or biased in their opinions.
But it is part of the jury selection process. Okay so attorney-conducted voir dire would be part of the jury selection process. The jury selection process is a process that’s supposed to give the defendant and a fair and impartial jure or jury which is what’s guaranteed under the constitution. So part of that process and something I am hoping that will start to happen in Maine, is that attorneys get to be more involved in that process.
More involved in asking jurors questions personally to be able to determine whether they can be fair and impartial. Yes in some states it’s automatic, in Florida it’s automatic, you get it across the board. In Iowa where we had someone, because Iowa and Nebraska we had someone come in to the public defender’s office, he was shocked that it wasn’t part of the normal course of selecting a jury and the same people who were in Florida who came to the public defender’s office in New Hampshire they were shocked that it wasn’t.
They were the ones who really stated to make the push for the program to make a push to start to implement it in New Hampshire. Now it’s not just in major cases not just in the murder trial or you know a serious assault or drug dealing case, it’s common practice in everything from a misdemeanor to the most serious felonies.
Because it doesn’t matter what you are charged you are still entitled to a fair and impartial jury.