Can Victims of A Crime Serve As Jurors ?

In Brown v. Commonwealth, 29 Va. App. 199, 212, 510 S.E.2d 751, 757 (1999), the defendant sought to strike three prospective jurors for cause. The holding concerning the seating of prospective jurors one and two is relevant to our discussion. During voir dire, prospective juror one stated that she had been the victim of a violent crime. In response to questions regarding whether that experience would influence her ability to "keep an open mind" and render a decision based on the facts of the case, she expressed equivocation. She stated that she was not certain that her experience would influence her decision. The Court held that the juror expressed "numerous reservations about her ability to serve impartially on the jury in light of her personal experiences." The Court noted that nearly all of the juror's responses contained the phrases, "I think," "I don't know," and "I would try." A trial judge has an opportunity to hear, observe, and assess the connotations of a juror's response; therefore, equivocal statements alone will not suffice to disqualify a juror. However, "all doubts about the fitness of a juror to serve must be resolved in favor of the accused." Brown, 29 Va. App. at 208, 510 S.E.2d at 755.