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Jurors permitted to bring personal beliefs into courtroom

A Georgia defendant going through a trial has a right to expect jurors to be impartial. However, this doesn't mean jurors should be expected to disregard their own individual beliefs and life experiences. This is the gist of a recent ruling made by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The case that led to this decision involved a black man who was convicted by a jury for a charge of possession with intent to distribute.

With any criminal defense case, the prosecution and defense can object to certain actions. This is what happened with this case when a prospective female juror who stated a belief that the court system is rigged against young African American males was excused by the judge. However, the Massachusetts SJC said that the dismissal was wrong because the juror wasn't asked if she could be unbiased about the case. The SJC upheld the man's conviction on the grounds that the outcome was not affected by the dismissal of the juror.

The ruling is significant because it clearly dictates which factors a judge should consider during the jury selection process. One of the justice's siding with the majority opinion stated that the main consideration should be whether or not a juror, given their own unique world view, is capable of listening to the evidence presented and applying the law as per court guidelines.

Essentially, the ruling means a criminal defense attorney has a right to have a jury for an accused client that is able to be fair and impartial despite what their personal opinions and beliefs may be. The ruling only applies to Massachusetts. Even so, a defense lawyer in Georgia might, under the right circumstances, make a similar argument if a potential juror is excused without sufficient cause.

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