Legal Question in Criminal Law in Michigan

Can a criminal case be reversed if the Judge nor neither the Prosecutor or defense asked the prospective juror any questions? When questions were posed to the Jurors as a whole she never one raised her hand nor volunteered any answers. She sat silent during the whole Voir Dire and ended up sitting on the Jury. The Appellate Attorney never caught it either. Years later while going through the transcripts . Now reading it and finding her name she should have raised her hand and been questioned because she knew the Judge and had dealings with him and the Prosecutor. Her husband had been charged with man slaughter for drunk driving going over center line and killing a pregnant women. Others issues also involving the three of them. I have been looking for case reversals on this subject but not sure how to word the question. Thanks

Asked on 10/11/18, 3:18 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Neil O'Brien Eaton County Special Assistant Prosecuting Attorney

My answer as a prosecutor is a qualified "No". There is no requirement that every juror be asked individual questions. Every juror is presumed to be competent and qualified to serve. (Jurors come from a list of folks registered with the secretary of state with driver licenses and personal ID cards; they fill out a questionnaire that helps the court's jury coordinator staff weed out people who are disqualified based on the info in that paperwork. So whomever comes into the courtroom, in my 34 years of experience, is basically qualified.) Often, the attorneys ask questions to the whole group and then follow up with jurors who raise their hand because the question raises an issue for that person. Other times, a few jurors are focused on by the attorneys, and then a group question is posed like "Does anyone have a different answer from what Juror #4 said?" Why was my answer to you "qualified"? Because the juror questionnaire form's general information (occupation of the juror and spouse; children at home; past involvement in court cases; whether they have been sued; whether they have been a victim; etc.) could have raised a "red flag" detail, and the defense attorney's failure to inquire about it might raise an issue about constitutional ineffectiveness of counsel. You were guaranteed to have a "fair trial", not a perfect trial. Second-guessing and Monday quarterbacking are not enough to help your appeal. And one gray area when it comes to the 20/20 hindsight of reading trial transcripts is whether some trial strategy by your attorney explains why that silent juror was never asked a question. Despite what is dramatized in many TV series, picking a jury is an art, not a science. There is a lot of "gut feeling" involved. Maybe that silent juror had a look, was of a certain age or race, or some other characteristic that your attorney thought might be favorable to the defense's theory of the case?

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Answered on 10/11/18, 3:54 pm

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