What happens in a Connecticut habeas corpus case? What happens in the event of failure to competently select jurors? Find out here.
The Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments and Article First, § 8, as amended, guarantee a trial before an impartial jury. See Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 145, 147-58 (1968)(6th Amendment guarantee of trial by jury made applicable to the states); also see Morgan v. Illinois, 504 U.S. 719, 726 (1992)(14th Amendment Due Process Clause “independently require[s] the impartiality of any jury empanelled to try the cause”); in addition, see Turner v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 466, 471 -73 (1965)(impartial jury required by 14th Amendment Due Process Clause); and see Irwin v. Dowd, 366 U.S. 717, 722-23 (1961)(same); finally see also State v. Ross, 269 Conn. 213, 228 (2004).
Effective Assistance of Counsel
The Sixth Amendment and Article First, § 8 also guarantee effective assistance of counsel. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984); Siemon v. Stoughton , 184 Conn. 547, 554 (1981)(Article First, Section 8 guarantees effective assistance of counsel). In addition, this guarantee embraces jury selection, which is a critical stage of the proceedings. Also, competent representation at jury selection must happen by Standard 4-7.2(a) of the ABA Standards for Criminal Justice, Defense Function (3rd Ed. 1993), which states that, “[d]efense counsel should prepare himself or herself prior to trial to discharge effectively his or her function in the selection of the jury, including the raising of any appropriate issues concerning the method by which the panel was selected and the exercise of both challenges for cause and peremptory challenges.”
Also consider that the Rules of Professional Conduct lend still further support that competent representation must happen at jury selection. See Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 1.1 Competence (“A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation”). In addition, an impartial jury happens by, among other things, excusing for cause any potential juror who demonstrates bias or an inability to act fair and impartial.
In addition, counsel has the responsibility to move that such venire person get excused for cause pursuant to:
1) The Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments which guarantee a fair trial by an impartial jury,
2) The Connecticut Constitution, Article First, § 8, as amended by Articles XVII and XXIX of the amendments, which guarantees the right to “trial by impartial jury” and the correlative right to challenge prospective jurors for cause,
3) General Statutes § 54-82f which requires that any juror “unable to render a fair and impartial verdict” be excused from service,
4) Practice Book § 42-5 which holds that a person is “disqualified to serve as a juror if such person is found by the judicial authority to exhibit any quality which will impair that person’s capacity to serve,”
5) Practice Book § 42-11 which holds that the “judicial authority may excuse any prospective juror for cause,” and
6) Practice Book § 42-12 which states that “any juror…unable to render a fair and impartial verdict…shall be excused by the judicial authority…”
Counsel’s failure to move for cause or to otherwise exercise the degree of judgment and skill required to select an impartial jury constitutes deficient performance. See Skakel v. Warden, Tolland J.D., at Rockville, Docket No. CV-10- 4003762 (Bishop, J.T.R), Mem. of Dec., Oct. 23, 2013, pp. 88-94, 127-30 (finding trial counsel’s selection of an arguably biased juror constitutionally deficient under Strickland). Also, in some instances the deficiency may result in structural error and per se prejudice. See Neder v. United States, 527 U.S. 1, 8 (1999)(the presence of a biased decisionmaker is structural error “subject to automatic reversal”); see also Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 647 (1997)(“A criminal defendant tried by a partial judge is entitled to have his conviction set aside, no matter how strong the evidence against him”).
But even if the error is not considered structural, it still can and should be argued that the presence of infected jurors undermines confidence in the verdict. See Virgil v. Dretke, 446 F.3d 598, 614 (5th Cir. 2006)(Also, “Expressed in Strickland terms, the deficient performance of counsel denied [the defendant] an impartial jury, leaving him with one that could not constitutionally convict, perforce establishing Strickland prejudice with its focus upon reliability”).