Jury Selection Refresher – Top 10 Cases

June 21, 2021

It has been over a year since many of us have been inside a courtroom, let alone in trial.  Now that courthouses are opening up across the county, we wanted to provide a refresher for the top ten cases you should have in your arsenal for jury selection in Florida.

 

Kochalka v.Bourgeois, 162 So. 3d 1122, (Fla 2nd DCA 2015)

Defense verdict reversed in car crash case because juror should have been stricken for cause. Juror stated she “didn’t have any faith in the jury system” because her family had a bad experience in a criminal case. She also said she would have bias in favor of one party but never identified which party she would favor. Held: Acknowledgement of bias in favor of one party – regardless of which party it was – should have disqualified her from serving on the jury.

Rodriguez v. Lagomasino, 972 So. 2d 1050, (Fla 2nd DCA 2008)

Defense verdict reversed because two jurors should have been stricken for cause. Juror G said he would be “in the middle” in this case but his wife’s accident was going to double his insurance rates, and he did not know if he could put that aside, and Juror H thought there should be caps on damages because of all the frivolous lawsuits, and it was possible his beliefs about caps could come into play in this case (although he doubted that they would).

Strachan v. State, 279 So. 3d 1231, (Fla. 4th DCA 2019)

The Fourth DCA held that a trial court could not impose an arbitrary 45-minute time limit on voir dire. “We repeat the admonitions which we expressed in Thomany: inflexibility in the amount of time provided for voir dire is not a wise path upon which to continue to travel. Any extension of time would have been far less than the many hours which both sides’ appellate counsel spent on this appeal, and many days less than the amount of time which will be necessary to try this case again.”

Nash v. General Motors, 734 So.2d 437, (Fla 3d DCA 1999)

Defense verdict in wrongful death case reversed. Juror told Court “I think I could be fair.” But she also told plaintiff’s attorney she had reservations about awarding money damages for the death of a loved one, and she would be unable to follow that law.

Pacot v. Wheeler, 758 So. 2d 1141, (Fla 4th DCA 2000)

Defense verdict in dog bite case reversed.  Five jurors should have been stricken for cause. All five jurors said they would have “difficulty” or “trouble” or a “problem” following an instruction on the law that provided awarding money for pain and suffering. “Inability or difficulty in putting a juror’s feelings aside so that she might be fair to the defendant is sufficient to require the trial court to grant a challenge for cause.”

Vega v. State, 182 So. 3d 848, (Fla 4th DCA 2016)

Conviction for burglary reversed because juror should have been stricken for cause. Juror stated he “would tend to see a police officer as more credible” than a lay witness. Held: Even though juror stated he could follow the court’s instructions regarding the credibility of witnesses, juror should have been stricken for cause. Close cases should be resolved in favor of excusing the juror rather than leaving doubt as to impartiality.

Jaffe v. Applebaum, 830 So. 2d 136, (Fla 4th DCA 2002)

Defense verdict in medical malpractice case reversed.  Juror Minker should have been stricken for cause. Minker had been in a bad accident and said he “owed his life” to his surgeon and plastic surgeon. He admitted that because of his experience, the plaintiffs would be starting out with half a strike against them.

Algie v. Lennar Corp., 969 So.2d 1135, (Fla 4th DCA 2007)

Defense verdict in trip and fall case reversed. Juror should have been stricken for cause. Juror stated he believed he could “be fair,” but stated he believed that in every slip and fall case the person who falls is at least partially responsible, and that this would factor into his decision and would be something the plaintiff would have to overcome.

Matarranz v. State, 133 So.3d 473, (Fla 2013)

Conviction for first-degree murder and burglary reversed because juror should have been stricken for cause. This case is the most recent case from the Supreme Court of Florida which deals extensively with cause challenges and peremptory challenges. Held: Jurors cannot be rehabilitated when they have fixed opinions and attitudes that arise from their personal life experiences and firmly held beliefs. However, jurors may be rehabilitated if their biases or prejudices are based on misconceptions about aspects of the law or the judicial process. Reaffirms Singer v. State – if there is any reasonable basis to doubt a juror’s impartiality, then the juror should be excused for cause.

Murphy v. Roth, 204 So.3d 43, (Fla 4th DCA 2016)

Despite multiple instructions from the judge, a juror in an automobile accident case tweeted multiple times during jury selection and trial. The jury awarded $39,000 to the plaintiff and apportioned 60% fault to the plaintiff. Post trial, Plaintiff moved for a new trial and for a juror interview based on the tweets. Trial judge granted a juror interview and, after interviewing the juror, subsequently denied Plaintiff’s motion for new trial.

(This post was prepared by Kimberly L. Wald, Esq. Kim is a trial attorney at the Kelley|Uustal Law Firm in Fort Lauderdale, FL. For more information, please contact Kim at klw@kulaw.com).

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