Anyone charged with a crime in Florida has the right to have a fair and impartial jury of his or her peers determine guilt. The state’s Fourth District Court of Appeals recently explained in a sex crime case that jurors who make clear during the jury selection process that they can’t give the person charged a fair shake should be left off the jury.
The defendant was charged with a variety of crimes, including sexual activity with a child, lewd or lascivious molestation of a child over the age of 12 but under the age of 16, lewd or lascivious molestation of a child under the age of 12, sexual performance by a child, and showing obscene material to a child. At trial, his lawyers planned to argue that the defendant gave a false confession to the crimes when he was interviewed by the police as a suspect. One lawyer asked prospective jurors during the jury selection process whether they believe people confess to crimes they didn’t commit. The trial judge allowed two jurors to serve, although they expressed skepticism about false confessions, and the defendant’s lawyer asked for them to be removed from the jury pool.
The first juror said he did not believe a person would make a false confession. Even someone who did falsely confess to a crime probably was involved in the crime somehow, the juror said. “I think your question was would they agree to admitting to a crime that they did not commit and my answer to that would be no,” he said. The second juror also said it was hard to believe that a person would confess to a crime that he or she did not commit. “Something of this nature would just be very unreasonable for someone to admit guilt to,” he said. The juror later said a person would have to be “crazy” to wrongly confess to the kind of sex crimes with which the defendant was charged. He was eventually convicted of the crimes following trial.
Reversing the convictions on appeal, the Fourth District said both jurors should not have been permitted to serve on the jury.
“A juror is not impartial when one side must overcome a preconceived opinion in order to prevail,” the court explained. “However, a juror who can lay aside any bias or prejudice, and render a verdict solely on the evidence presented and the instructions on the law given by the court, may be permitted to serve on the case.”
The court said the first juror in this case implied that he would prejudge that the defendant was somehow involved in the crimes by confessing to them. The second juror, according to the court, “candidly expressed difficulty accepting that a person accused of a serious crime would falsely admit guilt.” Although that juror said he would be fair and impartial, the court noted that he later repeated statements showing that he may be biased.
As a result, the court ordered that the case be sent back for a new trial.
If you or a loved one has been charged with lewd or lascivious molestation or another sex crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced lawyer. St. Petersburg sex crime attorney Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.
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