Improper Dismissal of a Juror
A trial court may dismiss a juror who is unable to perform his or her duties upon a finding of "cause." State v. Allen, 216 Conn. 367, 378, 579 A.2d 1066 (1990);
see also General Statutes 54-82h (c).
"On appeal, the deffendent bears the burden of showing that the rulings of the trial court resulted in a jury that could not judge his guilt impartially. State v. Marra, 195 Conn. 421, 432, 489 A.2d 350 (1985)." State v. Tucker, 226 Conn. at 630-31.
Accordingly, "'the trial court is vested with wide discretion in determining the competency of jurors to serve, and that judgment will not be disturbed absent a showing of an abuse of discretion.' State v. Cubano, 203 Conn. 81, 88-89, 523 A.2d 495 (1987); State v. Anthony, 172 Conn. 172, 175, 374 A.2d 156 (1976)." State v. Tucker, 226 Conn. 618, 630, 629 A.2d 1067 (1993).
The uniqueness of the juror's dilemma only highlights the numerous possibilities that arise with regard to juror dismissal. for example, in State v. Rokus, 191 Conn. 62, 71, 463 A.2d 252 (1983), a juror expressed concern that he recognized a police officer who was going to testify.
The juror told the court that he did not know the officer very well and had not seen him in three years. Id. the juror also added that he would not give any undue preference to the officer's testimony. Id. the court excused the juror, and our Supreme Court concluded that the trial court's action was not improper. Id., 71-72.
Other courts have noted the importance of addressing in the jury selection process juror bias on the basis of a juror's expertise. In State v. Saunders, 1999 UT 59, 992 P.2d 951, 962-64 (Utah 1999), the Supreme Court of Utah reversed a trial court's decision to halt questions by attorneys of jurors who had claimed specialized knowledge of child sexual abuse in a case where the deffendent was accused of sexual abuse of a child.
"As a general rule, trial judges have some discretion in limiting voir dire inquiry. . . . That discretion is most broad when it is exercised with respect to questions that have no apparent link to any potential bias.
However, the trial judge's discretion narrows to the extent that questions do have some possible link to possible bias, and when proposed voir dire questions go directly to the existence of an actual bias, that discretion disappears.
The trial court must allow such inquiries." Id., 963;
see also Brooks v. Zahn, 170 Ariz. 545, 552, 826 P.2d 1171 (App. 1991) (attorney should have questioned juror with specialized knowledge in nursing during voir dire).