Texas Juror Disqualification Based on Bias or Prejudice

The Texas Supreme Court has defined "prejudice" as "prejudgment" and, as such, "embraces bias." Sullemon, 734 S.W.2d at 14, quoting Compton v. Henrie, 364 S.W.2d 179, 182 (Tex. 1963). Bias as a ground of disqualification requires an inclination toward one side of an issue rather than to the other to such an extent that the state of mind of the juror leads to the natural inference that he will not or did not act with impartiality. Id. Statutory disqualification based on bias or prejudice extends not only to the litigant personally, but to the subject matter of the litigation as well. Compton, 364 S.W.2d at 182. Neither bias nor prejudice is presumed. Nor is either shown by general questions, which are usually insufficient to satisfy the diligence required in probing the mind of a venire member with respect to a legal disqualification for bias or prejudice. See Gant v. Dumas Glass and Mirror, Inc., 935 S.W.2d 202, 208 (Tex. App.-Amarillo 1996, no writ). Rather, the key response that supports a successful challenge for cause is that the venire member cannot be fair and impartial because the venire member's feelings are so strong in favor of or against a party or against the subject matter of the litigation that the venire member's verdict will be based on those feelings and not on the evidence. Id., citing Julie A. Wright, Challenges for Cause due to Bias or Prejudice: the Blind Leading the Blind Down the Road of Disqualification, 46 Baylor L. Rev. 825, 838 (1994). When a juror is not found biased or prejudiced as a matter of law, whether the juror is nevertheless sufficiently biased or prejudiced to merit disqualification is a factual determination to be made by the court. See Sullemon, 734 S.W.2d at 15. Such a finding will not be disturbed in the absence of an abuse of discretion. Id. Whenever the evidence does not conclusively establish the panelist's disqualification as a matter of law, appellate courts must consider all the evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court's ruling. Id.