I just picked a jury in a marihuana case, there were several perspective jurors who were excused, who will not sit on our jury because of the answers they gave during the jury voi dire. This is not the first time this has happened.
If you believe in medical cannabis, and or that Marijuana should be legal and you find yourself on a jury in a marihuana case here are some things to remember:
1. During the Jury Selection, you will be asked if you can put your personal or philosophical feelings aside, and be fair to both the prosecutor and the defense.
2. During the Jury Selection, you will be asked if despite your beliefs you will follow the law as it is given to you, and apply the facts to the law when you deliberate.
3. These are common question asked during the jury selection also known as voi dire, with the overall goal of the process to select persons who will put aside there personal beliefs, as the Judge will direct , and render a just verdict.
4. The same questions are asked to prospective Jurors, who have family members or relatives who are police officers, ie Madam juror despite being married to the Chief of police for 25 years and despite the fact that your husband is a police officer, will you be able to put that fact aside and be fair to the defendant in this case.
5. 10 out of 10 times the answer of the Police Chief's wife will be yes. I can follow the law, and will follow the instructions that the Court gives me.
Please note that the Police Chiefs wife’s answer allows her to stay on the jury.
Unfortunately as we saw today, from the many prospective jurors who were asked if they could be fair in our case involving marihuana, the answer " no, I could not be fair because I could never convict someone of a marihuana charge" had them removed for “cause”, and they did not even have a chance to sit and judge the case.
Or said another way the ideal person who should be on our jury will not be. As they were excused from the jury box, and exited the court room, I could not help but think to myself, that I bet they really could be fair in this case, that they really could follow the law as the Court instructed them, that they could apply the law to the facts of the case, and also put aside whatever beliefs they had about marihuana to render a just verdict.
We all have biases, beliefs and preconceived ideas of the world, anyone who participates in the jury process is asked to put those feelings aside, and listen to the specific facts of the specific case, which will not come until after the jury has been selected. Those who are against marijuana prohibition should be more open minded and objective in their answers, just as any other perspective juror would be.
Unfortunately the answer "I could never convict a person for marihuana because it should be legal" actually has a serious and negative effect on the fairness of the trial. "
If the wife of the Police Chief can sit on the jury, and put aside the stories she has heard at dinner every night for her entire marriage, then so can those who oppose marihuana prohibition. If she can follow the law, be fair and render a fair verdict, then so can those who oppose marihuana prohibition. The distinction here is in the semantics and the desire to render a just verdict by participating in the jury trial process. The issue is not what you believe but weather you can be fair. Being fair means listening to the evidence and rendering a just verdict. So to all of you, who believe in ending marihuana prohibition, remember there is a time and place for that discussion, and it is not during a jury selection. Despite your convictions, remember being on a jury is the quintessential American experience, embrace it, be one with it, put your beliefs of the world aside, and tell the court you can be fair. Your roll in all this chaos will be better served having you sit and be that juror who can render justice.
Michael A. Komorn
Attorney and Counselor
Law Office of Michael A. Komorn
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