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Jury – Selection – Bias / Disqualification – Juror’s Prior Criminal Record

State v. Robert A. Mendoza, 227 Wis.2d 838, 596 N.W.2d 736 (1999), reversing State v. Mendoza 220 Wis.2d 803, 584 N.W.2d 174 (Ct. App. 1998)
For Mendoza: Michael K. Gould, SPD, Milwaukee Appellate

Issue/Holding: Striking jurors (at state’s request) merely because they have criminal records is “an error of law,” ¶24. The court, however, goes on to review whether each such juror should have been struck for cause. One juror had recently pled guilty to misdemeanor possession of cocaine and was waiting to serve his 16-day sentence. This juror, the court holds, was objectively biased, because his “contact with the criminal justice system was recent and continuing.” ¶34. The second juror had a 1966 conviction for armed robbery and two, more recent misdemeanors; he evinced “residual hostility” about these experiences, thus establishing objective bias. ¶¶35-36. The third juror, convicted of burglary and sentenced to 18 months in 1994, denied guilt, and was objectively biased: “A person who believes he was once set up and that others are set up for crimes may not be an impartial juror.” ¶38. Only the fourth juror – convicted more than 30 years before, and not harboring any apparent negative feelings with the system, isn’t deemed biased. ¶¶39-40. (However, the error is deemed harmless.)

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