Does a potential jury need to be uninformed about a case to be fair?

The jury selection process for Amy Senser’s trial on charges stemming from a hit-and-run accident in Minneapolis focused on whether potential jurors had followed news coverage of the case. Defense attorneys had raised the possibility that Senser could not receive a fair trial in Hennepin County, where media coverage had been extensive. Today’s Question: Does a potential jury need to be uninformed about a case to be fair?

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  • Kurt

    No. Just open-minded.

  • Josh

    No.

    That’s what the high priced legal talent is being paid to do.

  • Hiram

    It might help, but the answer we decide to give to that question is no. To hold otherwise would give a defendant the benefit of his notoriety.

  • Duane

    To have an impartial group of your peers to serve on a jury is important; however, the jury needs to be able to separate biases and personal feelings out of the decision. Most jury pools serve on cases that do not reach the amount of public attention that the Sensor case or the Zimmerman case has cause. In either case the media has to be very careful how the fact and events are presented to the public. I do believe the Sensor case has been handled in a satisfactory manner by the media and a jury pool can be drawn. The Zimmerman case is an entirely different matter. The statement by our President and Al Sharpton ans well as the inaccurate auditing of the 911 tapes have both influenced the available jury pool and it will be difficult to call an unbiased jury.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Do we really want juries to be made up ignorant, incurious people who don’t pay attention to what’s going on in the world?

  • Wayne Sorge

    I am not sure which side would be most favored by an ignorant jury..but it would not maximize potential for justice.

  • kim

    No. If you follow that line of thinking too far, you get to where, to be a preferred juror, you have to be out of touch with the world and/or stupid. But, a perspective juror SHOULD realize that what you hear in the news is not necessarily the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

  • Philip

    Maybe we should ask a different question. Let’s try this one: Does the press need to turn a trial into a media circus frenzy because the defendant is the wife of someone famous?

    There is informed and then there is simply entertainment.

  • Wally

    In past times, “jury of one’s peers” meant people who knew the defendant (and not necessarily as friends). Now, we have juries of useful idiots, ignorant of cases, the people involved, the law. Here is why we need informed jurors.

    If the State has built a case totally on circumstantial evidence, a jury of the defendant’s peers could say: “We know Sue; there’s no way she did this. Besides, we know that witness, he’s liar and a thief. No way we’re going to believe him; he must have cut a deal with the State. Not guilty.”

    If the State has a weak case concerning a violent crime, a jury of the defendant’s peers could say: “We know Vince, he’s a worthless lowlife who’s threatened everybody in the community, including the victim. Guilty.”

    But increasingly, anybody who knows anything about a defendant, a victim or the law, is excluded from a jury. Lawyers, especially prosecutors, don’t like the smell of smart.

    Having smart jurors of real peers protects innocent people from conviction, and keeps the guilty from going free. But in today’s courts, a good reputation is of little value, and a bad reputation is of little harm–the goal seems to be for every defendant to enter a trial with a clean slate, with dictators in black robes controlling the information.

    If jurors know Amy Senser has a habit of speeding and talking or texting while driving, that would not “taint” the trial.

    [Wow, I actually totally agree with Steve the C, so far. Steve, are you masquerading as me?]

  • Ann

    There have always been trials in small towns where everyone knows everyone. People have biases of all kinds that stem from their own identities and backgrounds. No trial is perfect.Doesn’t the media have anything to talk about besides Ms. Senser and the Vikings? I can hardly tolerate the local news anymore. It is not informative or helpful. The media could give a one sentence update about these stories, but they don’t merit the time they get.

  • Steve O

    Absolutely. Jurors, like voters, should be uninformed.

  • Jake

    Yes…because the media is so bias that if they did hear anything the news on the case would be slanted. Media in this country has been dead for many decades and is controlled by millionaires expressing their point of views on the public. For this reason I thank the BBC for being the only media source worth listening to at this point in history.

  • Jim G

    No. We should want curious, well read, well informed, thinking jurors to be on every jury.

  • Steve the Cynic

    This is a weird anomaly, Wally. You agree with me, but I’m not sure I agree with you; at least not completely. There’s a downside to the system you envision. Juries like you describe, in the Old South, were responsible for countless unjust convictions of black folks and acquittals of white lynch mobs.

  • Wally

    Steve the C. Point taken. To have good juries, you need good people, with good principles and no agenda, except to uphold the Constitution, not to fulfill some prejudice or pre-conceived notion. The problem today, is that the system itself tries to eliminate good people from juries.

    Forget Amy Senser for a minute. Regarding Trayvon Martin, we have a national, media-fueled “lynch mob” with no interest in the facts of the case, which has already declared George Zimmerman guilty–the calmer ones calling for a kangaroo court conviction, the rabid making death threats against Zimmerman and any who dare defend him.

  • georges

    Prosecutors love this “new” kind of jury.

    They love having people on the jury that are easily led in the direction they want to go.

    Therefore, if the case is a man charged with killing his wife, you want a jury of man-hating women. If it is a wife accused of killing her husband, then you want a jury of women who hate other women.

    If the wife who killed her husband claims she had no other choice because he was a mean man and treated her badly, then you want a sisterhood jury.

    Then, all the DA has to do is let it be known to the jurors that they are free to forget about “facts” altogether and just go by their “feelings”.

    Case solved. Conviction acheived. The DA/CA/SP maintains his/her 100% conviction rate, as well as the burning desire to be Governor, President……..God.

    But, our legal system receives another blow to its legitimacy.