Since the Supreme Court's 1986 decision in Batson v. Kentucky, commentary about jury selection has focused on equal protection requirements rather than on the Sixth Amendment's impartiality mandate. The organizing themes of impartiality doctrine were less than clear when Batson was decided. The Court's return to equal protection as the source of significent new limitations raised additional questions about the function of impartiality regulation, even as it diverted attention from the Court's impartiality decisions.
The modest volume of commentary focusing on impartiality doctrine has also come in fractured form, with little analysis of the impartiality decisions as a structural whole. Normative commentary about the impartiality mandate typically has focused on a single problem, such as discrimination against African-Americans in jury selection or ambiguity in the standard for death qualification of jurors in capital cases. Similarly, descriptive commentary about impartiality requirements typically has not focused on impartiality as a unitary concept but rather on its relevance along with other doctrines at segmented stages of the jury selection process.
Efforts to comprehend the Court's impartiality decisions are complicated by four often interrelated problems. First, ambiguity surrounds whether individual impartiality means a juror who is neutral, or simply one who is free of extreme bias, or something else. The second problem concerns whether a constitutionally impartial jury means something more than a group of impartial jurors, and, if so, what more the notion of jury impartiality implies. The third problem concerns whether due process requires a jury to be impartial even when the Sixth Amendment right to an impartial jury in nonpetty criminal trials does not apply. The final problem concerns whether impartialiy doctrine is inconsistent with equal protection doctrine.
This Article provides a theory for integrating the decisions of the Supreme Court interpreting the impartiality mandate. It identifies the organizing themes by which to view the impartiality decisions both as a coherent body of law and as a jurisprudence that corresponds with other constitutional doctrine regulating jury selection. In sum, the Article demonstrates how the Court's impartiality holdings can be understood as a logical and conceptual whole.
- jury selection,
- impartial jury