“Hearing About” Murder Case Not Enough for Cause Challenge

May 14, 2009

Yesterday the Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld the trial court’s denial of a challenge for cause directed at a potential juror in a case involving murder-for-hire. In Samuels v. State, 11 So. 3d 413 (Fla 4th DCA, 2009), the Court reaffirmed the longstanding rule that if there is any reasonable doubt about a juror’s ability to render an impartial verdict the juror should be stricken for cause. As noted by the Court, close cases on this issue should be resolved in favor or excusing the juror rather than leaving a doubt as to impartiality.

However, in reviewing the colloquy between counsel and the prospective juror in this case the Court found nothing in the record that would raise a doubt as to the juror’s impartiality other than she admitted during voir dire that she had heard people talk about the case where she was employed as a hairdresser, and she had also seen it on the news and read about it on the internet. The prospective juror stated that notwithstanding what she had heard, she had not formed an opinion about the case, and she could decide the case based solely on the evidence presented at trial. As a result, the conviction was affirmed.