In People v. Johnson (Ct. App. 6/9/2011), a unanimous Court of Appeals—in a memorandum decision—reversed a defendant's conviction because of an error in jury selection. The Defendant raised the insanity defense. One of the prospective jurors said she wrote a college term paper on the insanity defense. During subsequent questioning, she said that she was not sure if she could give both sides a fair trial and that she might be biased against the defense. The Defendant exercised a peremptory challenge.
The court reversed because the trial judge should have conducted a further inquiry and either obtain an unequivocal assurance of fairness or excuse the juror for cause. "Here, given the absence of follow-up questioning by the court after the juror expressed uncertainty concerning her ability to fairly consider a major issue in this case, the conviction must be reversed and the matter remitted for a new trial."
Lesson learned? Followup, followup, followup. (LC)