The case of Ghislaine Maxwell is still alive, despite last month’s guilty verdict. Her attorneys are now looking to overturn the verdict and ask for a mistrial after one juror admitted to being sexually abused as a child and discussing it with the other jurors during deliberations.
According to Maxwell’s attorneys, this juror may have been biased against Maxwell and persuaded the other jurors to find her guilty. He had not offered his abuse background during jury selection.
The Importance of Impartial Jury Selection
Jury selection, or voir dire, is how the prosecution and defense choose who will act as jurors to determine a defendant’s fate. One of the main purposes of voir dire is to ensure that nobody who harbors a bias sits as a juror and jeopardizes the defendant’s fair trial.
The Impact of Subtle Bias
Subtle bias can have a critical impact. Most individuals have difficulty putting their own opinions and biases aside, no matter how hard they try, when facing conflicting evidence. Consequently, it is critical for the prosecuting and criminal defense attorneys selecting possible jury members to weed potential bias out during the process as much as possible.
This process can only go so far, however, especially when a juror is not forthcoming about potential personal conflicts. If a judge determines that either side used improper practices when selecting a jury, or if a juror lied or withheld information during the process, it may result in a mistrial.
What Research Shows
The research that has been conducted about both explicit and implicit bias has consistently found that prejudices can impact the outcome of a trial, often regardless of how compelling the evidence is.
Biases can make jurors more or less sympathetic to a defendant, particularly regarding race, sexual orientation, gender, or religion. No matter how open-minded some jurors may feel they are, they can be predisposed to feeling a certain way about a defendant without even realizing it.
Biases will also come into play when interpreting evidence surrounding the case. Jurors are often asked to interpret a great deal of testimony and evidence, including physical evidence in the way of photos, videos, and weapons. Biases can have a significant effect on how a juror interprets the testimony and evidence, how much importance they give it, or even if they doubt its truth.
The burden of a criminal conviction is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. But bias can interfere with what a juror considers reasonable doubt and whether or not what they have heard is enough to convict the defendant.
The Juror in the Maxwell Case
Accvording to recent reports, the juror in the Maxwell case admitted to the jury that he had been sexually abused as a child. He further admitted that he used the information to help convince the other jurors to believe the witnesses, saying that as a victim himself, there were things he remembered vividly and other things that he could not remember in detail.
When questioned about his lack of forthcoming, the juror said that he did not recall being asked during jury selection about previous sexual abuse.
But questionaires given to the jurors did specifically ask if they or someone else close to them had ever been victims of sexual abuse. Separately, the New York Times has reported that it interviewed another juror who also said they had been the victim of sexual abuse and had also discussed it during deliberations.
Judge Alison Nathan has asked both the prosecution and defense to submit briefs on whether a new trial is necessary because Maxwell didn’t have an impartial jury. It will be interesting to see what comes of this matter. While the prosecution was willing to put Maxwell’s perjury charges aside to enact “closure” for all involved, it appears that closure may not be on the menu just yet in this case.
A Fundamental Human Right
Every defendant is entitled to a fair trial, and it is recognized internationally as a fundamental human right. Fair and unbiased trials are a critical component of a just society and, without them, we could have little trust in our judicial system and the rule of law.
If you have been involved in a case where you feel that your rights to an impartial jury were violated and it had an impact on the outcome of your case, our Brooklyn criminal defense attorneys would be glad to discuss your case. Contact Bukh Law to schedule a free case evaluation.