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Identifying prejudice

On Behalf of | May 6, 2019 | Appeals |

There are so many elements that go into a criminal trial in Portland that one might easily question how it can be claimed that a fair trial is possible. An old saying exists that posits that justice is blind, implying that it should only be influenced by what is presented in the course of a trial. Yet external elements (or even certain arguments made as part of a trial) can influence that expected impartiality. When searching for the grounds on which to launch an appeal of a criminal conviction, one might be wise to examine their trial to see if such influences might have introduced prejudice into the proceedings. 

The Federal Rules of Evidence defines “unfair prejudice” as “an undue tendency to suggest decision on an improper basis, commonly, though not necessarily, an emotional one.” An example of this may be where an attorney asks witnesses (and by extension, jury members) to try and contemplate a position from another’s emotional point-of-view, thereby asking them to overlook evidence being presented and make judgments based on feeling. This can potentially taint decisions by causing those making them to view a defendant as a bad person and thus capable of doing what they have been accused of. 

Another way that prejudice can be introduced into a trial is through publicity. The American Bar Association clearly states that in cases where publicity has potentially prejudiced a juror, said juror should be questioned to determine whether their perceived prejudice makes them incapable of rendering a fair decision. If it has, then that juror must be dismissed from the case. Court officials are also instructed to counsel jurors to be careful that what they say after a case has been completed, as their remarks could cause prejudice to come into subsequent legal proceedings.