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Jury – Selection – Bias / Disqualification — Doubtful Fairness: Equivocal Statement — Deference to Trial Court Finding

State v. Jimmie R.R., 2000 WI App 5, 232 Wis.2d 138, 606 N.W.2d 196
For Jimmie R.R.: Martha K. Askins, SPD, Madison Appellate

Issue: Whether the trial court erred in refusing to strike for cause a potential juror who was equivocal on his ability to be fair.

Holding: The trial court did not err in finding no subjective bias.

 When asked if he could listen to the evidence and apply the law, the juror said, “I think I could.” Despite his apparent “hesitancy about his ability to serve as a juror in light of his wife’s past experience as a sexual assault victim,” the court of appeals defers to the trial court’s finding of no subjective bias. ¶¶27-28. Of further note:

¶30. We make a final observation regarding this matter based on the steady stream of juror selection cases that come before us. Because lawyers may ask leading questions on voir dire and because they are also skilled in obtaining desired answers, the responses of a prospective juror to such questions are often contradictory, depending on which party is asking the questions. Thus, on appeal, both parties are usually able to point to voir dire answers that support their competing positions regarding the challenged juror. Given this situation, it is all the more appropriate for us to defer to the trial court’s better position to assess the prospective juror’s credibility and honesty.

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