The Naivety In Thinking Jurors Will Control Their Bias
The express purpose of voir dire is to expose the bias of prospective jurors in an attempt to ensure that an impartial jury is selected. However, to overlook the fact that it is virtually impossible for humans to control their biases would essentially drive a stake through the heart of any hope in identifying a potential impartial jury. Humans are not robots and we frequently allow our biases to influence our behavior. Changing hearts and minds is more of an art than a science and has proven to be one of the most difficult feats to overcome.
Therefore, rather than encourage our naivety, we would be better served in acknowledging the fact that an impartial jury is a pipe dream and voir dire is our opportunity to level the playing field.
Imagine being the defense attorney in the George Zimmerman trial where a juror wrote on Facebook, “I CAN tell you THIS. ‘Justice’…IS Coming.” This wasn’t written by a juror. Rather it was written by a potential juror who told the court he had little knowledge of the case and didn’t remember anything about the case other than what the questionnaire revealed. He lied and was immediately removed.
I won’t suggest that it would have been impossible to change his mind. But I will submit that effective jury selection requires that we remove our blinders. Just because most people are unaware of how much their prejudices affect their behavior does not excuse our responsibility to understand the degree to which an individual’s attitude determines his or her decision-making.
It is for this reason that I’ve always been suspicious of the question, “Are you capable of remaining objective in this case?” because the answer should be obvious.