Challenge for Cause - Standards a Trial Judge Should Apply

Knop v. McCain, 561 So. 2d 229 (Ala. 1989), and Wood v. Woodham, 561 So. 2d 224 (Ala. 1989) the standards a trial judge should apply in determining whether to grant a challenge for cause. In Knop, this Court stated: "Ultimately, the test to be applied is whether the juror can set aside his or her opinions and try the case fairly and impartially, according to the law and the evidence. This determination ... is to be based on the juror's answers and demeanor and is within the sound discretion of the trial judge. Thus, a prospective juror should not be disqualified for prejudices or biases if it appears from his or her answers and demeanor that the influence of those prejudices and biases can be eliminated and a verdict rendered according to the evidence." Knop, 561 So. 2d at 232. This Court also held: "This Court cannot and does not seek to supplant the functions of the trial court in evaluating the personal demeanor of the jurors. Once a juror makes an initial statement that is vague, ambiguous, equivocal, uncertain, or unclear or that shows confusion, it is the trial judge's function to question the juror further, so as to ascertain whether the juror can be impartial. However, once a juror indicates initially that he or she is biased or prejudiced or has deep-seated impressions, so as to show that he or she cannot be neutral, objective, or impartial, the challenge for cause must be granted."