The COVID-19 pandemic directly impacted almost every part of our lives in 2020. We stayed home from work, our children missed school, we changed the way we shopped and even how we celebrated holidays. Some of these changes may arguably have been for the better, but others were clearly for the worse.
In a recent case, State of New Jersey v. Wildemar A. Dangcil, a man argues that the court’s changes to how it selected a jury for criminal cases was one of these changes that was clearly for the worse. During the pandemic, the court shifted to a predominately virtual selection process, including a COVID-19 questionnaire. The court would then prescreen potential jurors for those who had access to the technology needed to virtually attend court hearings, any potential medical issues and other considerations deemed “consistent with pre-pandemic protocols.”
The defense’s argument
The defense counsel argued that this process lacked transparency and excluded older jurors as well as those who did not have the means or access to needed technology. As such, he argues the court deprived him of his rights to presence and representation as well as failed to assure him that they chose a jury from a representative cross-section of the community. The trial court rejected the argument, stating the selection process was substantially similar to the pre-pandemic process.
Ultimately, the court rejected the defendant’s claim but noted the potential for concern. However, they did note that the use of special care is of “utmost importance” during the selection process. In an attempt to address the potential issue they directed the Administrative Office of the Courts to begin collecting jurors’ demographic information to better ensure a representative cross-section of the community.
Why jury selection matters
This is just one of the many parts of a criminal case to review when building a defense. A jury that does not represent the community can result in a biased result. A criminal defense attorney like the Law Office of Michael P. McGuire, LLC, can review issues like these and help build a case to better ensure your rights are protected. Call 732-704-7331 or contact the firm online to schedule a free consultation.