Impartial Jury

Amdt5. Impartial Jury

Fifth Amendment:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Public hostility toward a defendant that intimidates a jury is a classic due process violation.1 More recently, concern with the impact of prejudicial publicity upon jurors and potential jurors has caused the Court to instruct trial courts that they should be vigilant to guard against such prejudice and to curb both the publicity and the jury’s exposure to it.2 For instance, the impact of televising trials on a jury has been a source of some concern.3

The fairness of a particular rule of procedure may also be the basis for due process claims, but such decisions must be based on the totality of the circumstances surrounding such procedures.4 For instance, a court may not restrict the basic due process right to testify in one’s own defense by automatically excluding all hypnotically refreshed testimony.5 Or, though a state may require a defendant to give pretrial notice of an intention to rely on an alibi defense and to furnish the names of supporting witnesses, due process requires reciprocal discovery in such circumstances, necessitating that the state give the defendant pretrial notice of its rebuttal evidence on the alibi issue.6 Due process is also violated when the accused is compelled to stand trial before a jury while dressed in identifiable prison clothes, because it may impair the presumption of innocence in the minds of the jurors.7 (effect on defendant's fair-trial rights of private-actor courtroom conduct—in this case, members of victim's family wearing buttons with the victim's photograph—has never been addressed by the Supreme Court and therefore 18 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) precludes habeas relief; see Amendment 8, Limitations on Habeas Corpus Review of Capital Sentences).

The use of visible physical restraints, such as shackles, leg irons, or belly chains, in front of a jury, has been held to raise due process concerns. In Deck v. Missouri,8 . the Court noted a rule dating back to English common law against bringing a defendant to trial in irons, and a modern day recognition that such measures should be used “only in the presence of a special need.” 9 The Court found that the use of visible restraints during the guilt phase of a trial undermines the presumption of innocence, limits the ability of a defendant to consult with counsel, and “affronts the dignity and decorum of judicial proceedings.” 10 Even where guilt has already been adjudicated, and a jury is considering the application of the death penalty, the latter two considerations would preclude the routine use of visible restraints. Only in special circumstances, such as where a judge has made particularized findings that security or flight risk requires it, can such restraints be used.

Frank v. Mangum, 237 U.S. 309 (1915); Moore v. Dempsey, 261 U.S. 86 (1923). back
Sheppard v. Maxwell, 384 U.S. 333 (1966); Rideau v. Louisiana, 373 U.S. 723 (1963); Irvin v. Dowd, 366 U.S. 717 (1961); But see Stroble v. California, 343 U.S. 181 (1952); Murphy v. Florida, 421 U.S. 794 (1975). back
Initially, the televising of certain trials was struck down on the grounds that the harmful potential effect on the jurors was substantial, that the testimony presented at trial may be distorted by the multifaceted influence of television upon the conduct of witnesses, that the judge’s ability to preside over the trial and guarantee fairness is considerably encumbered to the possible detriment of fairness, and that the defendant is likely to be harassed by his television exposure. Estes v. Texas, 381 U.S. 532 (1965). Subsequently, however, in part because of improvements in technology which caused much less disruption of the trial process and in part because of the lack of empirical data showing that the mere presence of the broadcast media in the courtroom necessarily has an adverse effect on the process, the Court has held that due process does not altogether preclude the televising of state criminal trials. Chandler v. Florida, 449 U.S. 560 (1981). The decision was unanimous but Justices Stewart and White concurred on the basis that Estes had established a per se constitutional rule which had to be overruled, id. at 583, 586, contrary to the Court’s position. Id. at 570–74. back
For instance, the presumption of innocence has been central to a number of Supreme Court cases. Under some circumstances it is a violation of due process and reversible error to fail to instruct the jury that the defendant is entitled to a presumption of innocence, although the burden on the defendant is heavy to show that an erroneous instruction or the failure to give a requested instruction tainted his conviction. Taylor v. Kentucky, 436 U.S. 478 (1978). However, an instruction on the presumption of innocence need not be given in every case. Kentucky v. Whorton, 441 U.S. 786 (1979) (reiterating that the totality of the circumstances must be looked to in order to determine if failure to so instruct denied due process). The circumstances emphasized in Taylor included skeletal instructions on burden of proof combined with the prosecutor’s remarks in his opening and closing statements inviting the jury to consider the defendant’s prior record and his indictment in the present case as indicating guilt. See also Sandstrom v. Montana, 442 U.S. 510 (1979) (instructing jury trying person charged with “purposely or knowingly” causing victim’s death that “law presumes that a person intends the ordinary consequences of his voluntary acts” denied due process because jury could have treated the presumption as conclusive or as shifting burden of persuasion and in either event state would not have carried its burden of proving guilt). See also Cupp v. Naughten, 414 U.S. 141 (1973); Henderson v. Kibbe, 431 U.S. 145, 154–55 (1977). For other cases applying Sandstrom, see Francis v. Franklin, 471 U.S. 307 (1985) (contradictory but ambiguous instruction not clearly explaining state’s burden of persuasion on intent does not erase Sandstrom error in earlier part of charge); Rose v. Clark, 478 U.S. 570 (1986) (Sandstrom error can in some circumstances constitute harmless error under principles of Chapman v. California, 386 U.S. 18 (1967)); Middleton v. McNeil, 541 U.S. 433 (2004) (state courts could assume that an erroneous jury instruction was not reasonably likely to have misled a jury where other instructions made correct standard clear). Similarly, improper arguments by a prosecutor do not necessarily constitute “plain error,” and a reviewing court may consider in the context of the entire record of the trial the trial court’s failure to redress such error in the absence of contemporaneous objection. United States v. Young, 470 U.S. 1 (1985). back
Rock v. Arkansas, 483 U.S. 44 (1987). back
Wardius v. Oregon, 412 U.S. 470 (1973). back
Estelle v. Williams, 425 U.S. 501 (1976). The convicted defendant was denied habeas relief, however, because of failure to object at trial. But cf. Holbrook v. Flynn, 475 U.S. 560 (1986) (presence in courtroom of uniformed state troopers serving as security guards was not the same sort of inherently prejudicial situation); Carey v. Musladin, 549 U.S. 70 (2006) (effect on defendant's fair-trial rights of private-actor courtroom conduct—in this case, members of victim's family wearing buttons with the victim's photograph—has never been addressed by the Supreme Court and therefore 18 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) precludes habeas relief; see Amendment 8, Limitations on Habeas Corpus Review of Capital Sentences). back
544 U.S. 622 (2005) . back
544 U.S. at 626. In Illinois v. Allen, 397 U.S. 337, 344 (1970), the Court stated, in dictum, that “no person should be tried while shackled and gagged except as a last resort.” back
544 U.S. at 630, 631 (internal quotation marks omitted). back

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