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Jury – Selection – Bias / Disqualification — Doubtful Fairness, Generally: Defer to Trial Court — Need for Precise Questioning

State v. Marquis O. Gilliam, 2000 WI App 152, 238 Wis.2d 1, 615 N.W.2d 660
For Gilliam: Robert B. Rondini

Issue: Whether the trial court’s denial of a motion to remove a juror based on subjective bias was clearly erroneous.

Holding: The issue of a juror’s subjective bias is reviewed deferentially to the trial court’s resolution. Though this case is different from prior cases — here, “whether the juror has expressed a prejudice or predilection in the first instance” — “on this issue as well, the circuit court has a better ability than [the appellate] court to assess the juror’s response.” ¶12. In part because trial counsel’s questions to the juror at issue are seen as ambiguous and confusing, the trial court’s finding of no bias is sustained: “In order to establish bias, the questions to the jurors must be precise, and ambiguities must be clarified with follow-up questions. That did not happen with respect to Hagen.” ¶14.

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