WA Supreme Court Issues New Jury Rulings

Nov 22, 2012

The Supreme Court of Washington issued a series of rulings  on jury selection, isssuing opinions on four cases in one day. They all had to do with how courts and judges interact with jurors.

David Zuckerman was a lawyer on one of the cases.

He represented an inmate who appealed his conviction of molesting and raping his own daughter.

Zuckerman reviewed his client’s case. He read the trial transcripts. And he noticed something.

Zuckerman: “The judge handled some of the jury selection not in a public courtroom, but instead in the judge’s private chambers. And the law is pretty clear that that violates the Washington Constitution. All proceedings are supposed to be handled in an open public courtroom unless the judge finds some very compelling reasons to keep a hearing closed.”

The Supreme Court majority agreed with Zuckerman. His client gets a new trial.

Zuckerman says lawyers who win cases like this worry sometimes about how the public will react. When someone convicted of a serious crime gets to start over. But Zuckerman says maintaining an open court isn’t just about the rights of a defendant. It’s about the rights of all members of the public to see and hear what happens in court.

In another case the Supreme Court decided a judge can take questions from jurors without reading or discussing them in open court—as long as the questions and answers become part of the court record.

copyright 2012 KUOW