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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

3000 Town Center, Suite, 1800

Southfield, MI  48075

800-656-3557 (Toll Free)

248-351-2200 (Office)

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Email: michael@komornlaw.com 

Website: www.komornlaw.com

 

Check out our Radio show:

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CALL IN NUMBER:  (347) 326-9626

Live Every Thursday 8-10:00p.m.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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But isn't there a difference between the wife of the police chief who says she can put her preconceptions aside and come to a conclusion and the prospective juror who says he can't do this for a MJ crime?  The police chief's wife answered that, yes she could be fair.  The other guy said outright that he couldn't.  So I don't think there is a fair comparison here.  

 

I think anybody who states a firm "will not" or "will" convict should be booted.  I sat through jury selection once, and there was this lady who didn't want to be on the jury.  I heard her telling people that she was just going to say that she would convict not matter what.  And sure enough, she stood right up and said that as far as she was concerned, anybody who was accused of selling drugs should be convicted.  She was quickly dismissed.

 

It sounds like the root of the problem you're describing is people who say up-front how they would vote on a jury.  Such people don't belong on a jury...might be nice when they are on our "our" side....but sometimes they are on the other side.  Best just to keep people with their mind made up beforehand completely off the jury.

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Just because a person feels a law is not just, does not make them impartial.   A person can decide if a law is valid and just, that is part of our process.  Most people are ignorant of history and the right of jury nullification.  Even if they find the law unjust, they may find it just in a particular case and convict. People need to be educated on the rights of a juror, but the state does all they can to stop people from knowing their rights.

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We are dancing around the obvious. If you really want to make a difference in the "big picture" you need to with a stone face say to the judge or whoever, "Yes I can be impartial and put my personal bias aside".  

 

 Chances are the police chiefs wife is just doing that as well and is probably no more impartial than you are.

Edited by SFC
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i used to think getting out of jury duty was the best way to go.

but now after learning about our corrupt legal system, it seems like it is my duty to serve if i am chosen.

although i dont think i could sit on a murder/rape/assault trial.

 

@michael komorn

are you going to start passing out FIJA brochures?

http://fija.org/document-library/brochures/

 

@everyone

print out some brochures and pass them out!

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I think that any patient or caregiver can be as impartial in these cases as the next person, and that we should not shy away from jury duty. I remember lots of jokes about dodging jury duty growing up as a kid, and heard them as a prospective juror. But as an adult, I have always wanted to be selected for a jury.

 

I agree, but the OP was about:

 

"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”"

 

I think that is a really dumb thing to say.  If you are a juror and you want to see someone walk, you don't stand up and tell the world that you'd never convict.  The problem the OP experienced is uninformed jurors.  You can't blame this one on the court system.

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People that answer that they could not convict for a marijuana offense do so because these people have a deep sense that the prohibition laws themselves are unjust..

 

The police chiefs wife believes the law is righteous.

 

Both answers are truthful from the heart.

 

 

Unfortunately only one of those viewpoints make the jury.

Edited by BirdHunter
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Voir dire is one of the most important aspects of any trial. Many attorneys feel that jury selection is the single most significant procedure in the entire trial process. The purpose of voir dire questioning is to obtain a fair and impartial jury. The selection process in which prospective jurors are questioned and challenged for bias can turn out to be a battle of wits and maneuvering more dramatic than the trial itself.

 

The ultimate objective of voir dire is to ferret out the prejudice and bias that lurks in some areas of the thinking of every juror. Jury selection" is a misnomer. With a few peremptory challenges allotted, we do not "select" juries. We merely spend our few challenges to eliminate the jurors most likely to be prejudiced.

Also, jury selection is a matter of personal judgment and the use of the wits of the trial lawyer, whose judgment and instincts in the voir dire will be colored of necessity by her or his own experiences and knowledge of human nature, and personal prejudices and biases.

 

Background Information

 

"Why should anyone think that 12 persons brought in from the street, selected in various ways for their lack of general ability, should have any special capacity to decide controversies between persons," asked formed United States Solicitor General Erwin Griswold. Yet, More often than not, most observers agree that when jurors are left to apply their experiences and common sense to the evidence presented to them, they render as impartial a brand of justice as is humanly possible.

Sometimes in the United States, many potential jurors are called to the jury box before twelve are chosen. In England the judge calls the first twelve potential jurors and simply asks one question: "Can you give a fair hearing to both the crown and the defense?" If they can, they are impaneled as part of the jury.

 

In this country, the questioning process, called voir dire from the French term which means "to tell the truth," is far more elaborate and involves judges and attorneys. The purpose of the voir dire is to determine disqualifications and ensure an impartial jury which represents a cross section of the community. It is not to afford anyone an in-depth analysis so he or she can choose a jury that fits some particular mold or pattern that the person desires.

 

Prospective jurors may be challenged for cause if they exhibit a bias for or against one of the parties. For example, jurors may be disqualified if they are related to one of the parties or the attorneys, or if they stand to benefit directly or indirectly by a decision for one side or the other, or if they have formed an opinion in the case. A certain number of challenges without cause, which are called peremptory challenges, are also allowed each side. In North Carolina, for example , the state and the defendant each have fourteen peremptory challenges in capital offenses and eight in noncapital offenses. In civil cases each side is allowed eight peremptory challenges. Jury selection in some very complicated cases can take almost as long as the trial itself. In one California murder trial of three defendants,

it took five months to question more than 250 potential jurors. The actual trial took seven months.

 

In North Carolina the first twelve persons called are examined by the prosecutor, or the plaintiff's attorney in a civil case, for both cause and peremptory challenges.

If challenges are exercised, the person challenged is replaced in the jury box by another potential juror. When the prosecutor or plaintiff's attorney is satisfied, the same process is repeated by the defendant's attorney. If juror replacements are made at this point, the other side gets to pass or reject the replacement(s). This process continues until each side is satisfied or they have run out of challenges.

 

North Carolina law states that challenges for cause must focus on competence, prejudice, or fairness. The scope of examination of jurors is subject to the sound discretion of the court.

 

Some companies now specialize in assisting trial attorneys in applying psychological techniques to determine the type of juror an individual will be. In fact, sometimes "shadow" juries are chosen that reflect similar characteristics to the actual jury. This jury observes the trial and provides feedback to the lawyers trying the case. Critics of these practices feel that it represents an unconstitutional manipulation of the justice system and is a costly process that favors the rich over the poor.

 

There are numerous social and psychological factors that enter into the selection of a jury. Studies have shown that women are thought to be more sympathetic to the defense, men to the prosecution. The wealthy are thought to be more sympathetic to the prosecution, the poor to the defense. Ethnicity and race are thought to be important, also.

 

Julie Van Camp is an educator now living in Lopez Island, Washington.

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I think Michael is dead on with this one.  

 

Constantly we see poorly typed comments on MLive about 'aquit all marijuana cases, every one'...

 

This is bad for a couple of reasons.  

 

First, what about real criminal activity?  Things that are clearly outside the limits, maybe involving other crimes, etc?  Do we as a community recommend acquitting everyone brought up on any marijuana charge?  Do you think any activity involving marijuana deserves an acquittal?  This isn't to start a huge thread about whether the law is right or wrong, or personal attacks, or have the drama certain elements in our community seem to love.  It is a matter of what does the general public think about folks that regularly and uniformly suggest jury nullification to promote their cause- it should be selectively and specifically applied to clear cases of injustice, not everyone that relies on their 'opion' of what the law says.

 

Second, and this was the point of Michael's piece.  We WANT CARDHOLDERS ON JURIES.  We are 'normal' people and entitled to be on juries, just like everyone else.  The criminal justice system needs our input.  The jury is the last 'check and balance' on the legal system.  Judges interpret the law.  Lawyers debate the law.  THE JURY ENFORCES THE LAW and decides the truth.  Let your voice be a part of that jury.  Don't leave it to those that have no understanding of marijuana as a harmless herb, a useful medicine, or that users of marijuana are not by definition criminal types.  They are YOU.  Be fair.  Don't say things that will allow them to boot you.  Serve on the jury with an open mind and protect innocent defendants.  Those defendants are counting on you.

 

Dr. Bob

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