The Importance of Impartial Juries
Dec. 10, 2017
An impartial jury trial is critical to our democracy and our system of justice. Most countries require that private disputes between citizens be decided by government officials – not the United States of America. The United States were founded on a distrust of government authority. Our founding fathers insured that citizens, not government officials, would be allowed to hear and decide civil disputes.
In Kansas, “The right of trial by jury shall be inviolate.” See the Kansas Bill of Rights, § 5. The Kansas Constitution, Kansas statutes and case law guarantee Kansas citizens the right to a fair jury trial to resolve differences. A fair trial requires an unbiased and impartial jury.
Unfortunately, finding an impartial jury is difficult because almost everyone is biased in one way or another. Our biases are often implicit – hidden even from ourselves. (See for yourself by taking Harvard’s Implicit Association Test here: http://bit.ly/1m808ph). It is difficult to acknowledge our own biases, especially when those biases run counter to how we would choose to perceive the world.
To insure the right to a jury trial is realized, a trial attorney must illicit responses from prospective jurors prior to trial to determine whether a prospective juror has any implicit biases that would prevent him or her from being impartial. This is done through a process known as voir dire. Where a prospective juror shows signs of an implicit bias, the judge presiding over the trial is required to remove that juror from the panel. This process protects a litigant’s right to a fair jury trial as guaranteed by the Kansas Constitution and Kansas laws.
Anyone who believes strongly in the personal value of life and liberty and the Constitution will embrace and defend the right to a jury trial.