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Massachusetts Law About Jury Selection

Massachusetts Laws

MGL c. 234 § 28 Examination of Jurors.

Court Rules

Mass. Rules of Civ. Procedure 47 Jurors

Mass. Rules of Crim. Procedure 20 Trial Jurors

Selected Cases

Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court of California, 464 U.S. 501 (1984)
The court held that the guarantees of open public proceedings in criminal trials embodied in the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution cover voir dire examination of potential jurors. Trial court cannot close without specific findings that an open proceeding threatened the defendant's right to a fair trial and the right to privacy of the prospective jurors and without considering available alternatives.

Waller v. Georgia, 467 U.S. 39 (1984) Articulates the four requirements for closure of a courtroom - overriding public interest, narrowly tailored closure, consideration of reasonable alternatives, and judicial findings supporting closure

Owens v. United States, 483 F.3d 48, 63 (1st Cir. 2007). "…closure of jury selection to the public for an entire day without meeting the strict requirements of Waller would violate a defendant's right to a public trial…"

Comm. v. Downey, 78 Mass. App. Ct. 224 (2010) "Conviction must be reversed because the closure of the courtroom during jury impanelment violated his right to a public trial guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution."

Comm. v. Shea, 460 Mass 163 (2011). Outlines best practices for voir dire. "The better practice is to ask jurors to raise their hands in response to each question when they answer in the affirmative, request court officers to read the juror numbers of those raising their hands into the record, and allow the parties, the judge, and the court clerk to know (and the record to preserve) who answered "yes" to which question, so that a juror can be reminded of the answer if the juror fails to mention it at sidebar during individual voir dire, and appropriate inquiry can take place." 

Comm. v. Toolan, 460 Mass. 452 (2011) Defendant was entitled to new trial based on possible juror prejudice where judge failed to question prospective jurors in a way that he could determine each juror was impartial despite exposure to media coverage.

Print Sources

Art and science of jury selection in criminal cases, MCLE, 2011.

Gobert, James J. and Walter E. Jordan. Jury selection: the law, art and science of selecting a jury, West 2009-

Blue, Lisa and Robert B. Hirschorn. Blue's Guide to Jury Selection, Thomson/West, 2004 with supplement.

Frederick, Jeffrey T. Mastering voir dire and jury selection: an edge in questioning, ABA, 2011.

Rogers, Alan, "An anchor to the windward: the right of the accused to an impartial jury in Massachusetts capital cases," 33 Suffolk U L Rev 35 (1999-2000). An exhaustive history. Also available to library cardholders on Heinonline.

Willis, David S., "Note: Juror privacy: the compromise between judicial discretion and the First Amendment," 37 Suffolk U L Rev 1195 (2004). Also available to library cardholders on Heinonline.