The Second Department reversed the conviction in People v. MacFarlane (2d Dept. 8/23/2011), because the trial court sat a prospective juror who had given equivocal answers to a question about police credibility. The Defendant was on trial for Murder 2º. During voir dire, the juror reported that several family members were police officers. "The prospective juror expressed on two occasions her concern that she may give the testimony of a police officer more credence than she would to other witnesses. When asked if she would give no greater credibility to the testimony of police officers, the prospective juror replied, 'I would like to think that I can be fair, but it's hard.' When asked if she could evaluate the testimony of police officers in the same way as any other witness, the prospective juror answered, 'I would hope so.' Further, in response to a query from defense counsel as to whether she could be fair and impartial, the prospective juror stated, 'I'd like to think of myself as a fair person, but I — it's — I — I do give police officers a little more credence, I think, than I would other people.'"
Based on the juror's responses, the Appellate Division found that the juror should have been excused for cause.
Lesson learned? While it is frustrating for both jurors and attorneys, the latter must ensure that the former give unequivocal answers to questions about bias. Jurors who remain on the fence about such an issue must be excused. (LC)