“Bad Vibes” and Body Language Not Enough

October 27, 2006

A trial lawyer was prevented from exercising a peremptory strike on an African-American female during voir dire even though the lawyer was getting “bad vibes” from the prospective juror and felt her body language indicated she was not being open and honest in her answers.

In Ruger v. State, 941 So. 2d 1182 (Fla 4 DCA 2006), the Court held that although “body language” can be a race-neutral reason for a strike, the lawyer’s strike in this case did not appear “genuine” because he did not strike other jurors who were exhibiting the same kind of behavior. The Court also held that  “bad vibes” are an insufficient reason for a strike because “The case law is clear that a ‘feeling’ about a juror is not a valid, neutral reason to exercise a strike, absent support in the record.”