In a recent case coming out of a Massachusetts court, the defendant lost his appeal challenging convictions of two counts of rape. The defendant’s argument centered around the jury selection process prior to his trial; according to the defendant, several of the jurors were too biased to be fair and impartial deciders in his case. The court of appeals disagreed and affirmed the defendant’s original convictions.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, the defendant was charged with rape after his DNA was found to match with semen that had been recovered from a victim in 2009. Between 2009 and this identification, the victim had not known who had assaulted her, but after the discovery, the defendant was located and brought forward for trial.
Before the trial began, the court conducted a standard process in which it allowed each attorney to object to potential jury members that they thought would be unfit to decide the case. On the second day of this jury selection, the judge asked prospective jurors two questions: (1) whether they thought false accusations of sexual assault were rare or infrequent, and (2) whether someone who comes forward claiming sexual assault must be telling the truth, if she has put herself through the process of indicating a sexual assault occurred.
The defendant asked the court to eliminate the thirteen potential jurors who believed both that false accusations were rare and that witnesses in sexual assault cases are very likely telling the truth. The court denied this request, and the jury later found the defendant guilty of rape.
The defendant appealed, arguing that his jury was unnecessarily biased and that the judge should have accepted his request to eliminate the potential jurors that indicated they thought false accusations of sexual assault were rare. According to the defendant, this thought process indicated bias on the part of the jurors, and if they were already coming into the trial with prejudice against defendants accused of sexual assault, he did not have a chance at getting a fair trial.
The court looked through the evidence and ultimately decided it disagreed with the defendant. The court wrote that all jurors come into trials with some kind of bias or opinion, and it is impossible to find a jury made up of completely impartial people. What’s more, said the court, the jurors did not say that they definitively would find a person accused of sexual assault guilty – they merely indicated that a defendant of this nature is probably guilty of committing the crime that the victim alleges.
Because the court did not think the jurors’ bias was unreasonable, it denied the defendant’s appeal. His convictions were affirmed.
Have You Been Charged with Sexual Assault in Massachusetts?
If you are currently facing sexual assault charges in Massachusetts, know that the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy is on your side. We are committed to serving and protecting you to the best of our ability, so that you can move on with your life and focus on what matters to you. For a free and confidential consultation, call us at 617-367-0450.