Can You Ask Prospective Jurors About a Given Punishment ?

Saunders v. State, 780 S.W.2d 471, 476 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi 1989) was a negligent homicide case. The trial court refused to allow defendant to ask jurors whether they could give him probation where the complainant was five months old. 780 S.W.2d at 475. The court of appeals affirmed. It noted that an accused may question prospective jurors concerning their feelings about the range of punishment and probation so he could intelligently exercise his peremptory challenges. 780 S.W.2d at 476. However, it held the exercise did not include asking the jurors whether they could assess a minimum sentence under the facts of the case. Id. Such a question represents an improper attempt to commit prospective jurors to what their verdict would be with regard to a particular fact situation. Id. (citing Williams v. State, 481 S.W.2d 119, 121 (Tex. Crim. App. 1972). Texas courts have found questions asking prospective jurors to consider a given punishment under the facts of the case to be improper in numerous other scenarios. See: Chimney v. State, 6 S.W.3d 681, 689-90 (Tex. App.-Waco 1999, pet. filed) (whether jurors could consider five years probation if the complainant were pregnant); Bailey v. State, 838 S.W.2d 919, 920-22 (Tex. App.--Fort Worth 1992, pet. ref'd) (whether jurors could "be fair and give fair consideration of a probated sentence if the evidence showed that the complainant was at the time of an age between one and two years"); Hilla v. State, 832 S.W.2d 773, 776 (Tex. App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 1992, pet. ref'd) (whether prospective juror "based on the publicity he had read was open to a five-year probated sentence").