Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Don't Offend Anyone in Your Jury Questionnaire

I stumbled across this article today, and I find it kind of infuriating.  For some cases (usually the more infamous ones), jurors are given questionnaires prior to voir dire, which can aid the attorneys and Judge in quickly weeding out jurors who may be biased or otherwise incapable of being impartial or serving.  These questionnaires nearly always say something in the Instructions along the lines of "no answer is right or wrong" or "answer truthfully" or "you are under oath to answer truthfully" or "answer as honestly as you can."  You get the drill.  They don't want you to lie.  So, one woman -- Juror No. 799 did answer truthfully:
Juror No. 799, an Asian woman in her 20s who said she works in the garment industry, was up for jury duty in the death penalty trial of Bonanno crime boss Vincent (Vinny Gorgeous) Basciano.
It didn't take long for her to start looking worse than the defendant.

Asked to name three people she least admired, she wrote on her questionnaire: "African-Americans, Hispanics and Haitians."

When the judge asked why she answered the question that way, she replied, "You always hear about them in the news doing something."

She also declared that cops are all lazy, claiming that they sound their sirens to bypass traffic jams.
These -- truthful -- answers pissed off the Judge. 
"She's coming back [today], Thursday and Friday - and until the future, when I am ready to dismiss her," Garaufis said.
What is wrong with this picture?  She answered truthfully -- which is what the attorneys and Judges want and is exactly what she was probably told to do at the beginning of the questionnaire.  (I haven't seen the questionnaire.)  The purpose is to avoid ending up with a biased or otherwise tained jury.  Maybe she's racist, maybe she hates cops.  Isn't this exactly the kind of thing they would want to try and weed out?  And because the Judge didn't like her (truthful) viewpoint he's going to punish her? 

What is the message this Judge is trying to send?  That people should lie on their juror questionnaires in case someone might be offended by their point of view?  If you are the slightest bit racist you should lie about it?  Many criminal trial juror questionnaires involve questions about race in some shape or form, particularly when there are black defendants and white victims.  Should you lie if you have feelings about that one way or the other?  Many questionnaires also have questions about feelings toward law enforcement.  Should you lie?  As much as Judge Garaufis might like to believe we live in a perfect world where everyone loves everyone else, that is not the case -- which is clear from the very need for juror questionnaires on these topics.  This really doesn't make any sense to me.  I find it hard to believe that this woman is the first person in history to display any racism or disdain for law enforcement on one of these questionnaires.  What's the big deal?  Why did the Judge get so offended?  I really hope there is more to this story...     


  1. I read the article and they left it up in the air about her honesty. I think she was completely honest. That judge is drunk with power.

  2. I haven't read the article, just what you posted here, but my very first thought when I read her responses was that she was saying whatever she thought would get her out of jury duty. It doesn't jive that someone racist enough to list "African-Americans" as who they least admire would also use the PC term for the group. Maybe she is, but I bet the judge was right and she's actually just trying to get out of serving....

  3. I guess it's possible that she was lying on the questionnaire to get out of it, but in this day and age, would anyone be stupid enough to put those kinds of comments on the form if they didn't really mean it? Maybe.

    There are ways of figuring that out during voir dire, though. Judges can ask anything they want, and he could've asked her for more information and dug around to pull out the lie, or even simply asked her point blank if she answered that way to get out of jury duty. Instead he just got mad. Doesn't look good for him, in my opinion.

  4. Who gave Permission to the judge to punish her without doing a crime ?



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