Stuart, Florida lawyer discusses why our judicial system relies on prospective jurors telling the truth.
We have the greatest legal system in the world. If you don't believe so, just get in trouble in another country and report back to me. However, in order for our system to work, prospective jurors have to be truthful and provide correct information during jury selection. If not, the system breaks down. In the civil system, the litigants have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to retry the case and in the criminal system the burden falls on the State, which is passed onto us taxpayers. I have discussed this issue in other posts.
In the last week, two trials, one civil and one criminal will have to be redone.
On the Criminal Side
In the high profile criminal case of John Goodman in West Palm Beach, the trial judge granted Goodman a new trial and overturned his DUI Manslaughter conviction. The Palm Beach Post reports that the reason the verdict was thrown out was because of juror misconduct. During questioning, the juror failed to disclose that his ex-wife had a DUI, which he blamed for ending his marriage. The juror also failed to disclose that his daughter had been raped in a home invasion.
On the Civil Side
The civil case was a wrongful death action involving a resident of an assisted living facility (“ALF”). The simple facts of the case are that an elderly woman was admitted into an ALF and fell 19 times in 26 days, injuring herself and finally passing away.
During jury selection, a juror was questioned about his involvement with the judicial system and lawsuits. The juror testified that his daughter was involved in an accident in the 1980s and his wife was also involved. He also said that the facts of the accident would not have any impact on his ability to be a fair and impartial juror. The juror also denied having any involvement with other legal matters from bankruptcy to collection actions.
The case was tried and the personal representative of the estate received a nice verdict against the ALF. After the trial, the ALF learned that the prospective juror may have not disclosed 12 legal actions that happened in Broward County. The ALF asked the trial court to question the juror regarding these issues. The trial court denied the motion and the ALF appealed.
On appeal, the Second District Court of Appeal remanded the case back to the trial court ordering the court to interview the lawyers. If the 12 prior actions are true – this case will have to be retried.
If the juror in fact failed to disclose the information, he cost the litigants thousands of dollars and placed an emotional toll on the personal representative of the estate and the folks in the ALF. Now, they will have to go through the time, expenses and emotional roller coaster of another trial.
Our legal system depends on the prospective jurors to answer questions during jury selection truthfully. If they don't, the system just doesn't work. What do you think about potential jurors withholding information from lawyers and the judge during jury selection?