O'Dell v. Miller

In O'Dell v. Miller, 211 W. Va. 285, 565S.E.2d 407, (No. 29776 May 24, 2002), the defendant was convicted of first degree murder. 197 W. Va. 588, 476 S.E.2d 535. One of the issues argued on appeal was that a juror, who actually served on the jury that convicted the defendant, should have been struck for cause on the ground that the juror indicated she "'believed a person could not be charged without being guilty.'" Id., 197 W. Va. at 604, 476 S.E.2d at 551. In writing for the Court, Justice Cleckley summarily rejected the argument. The opinion concluded that "the prospective juror expressed the opinion that if she believed someone was not guilty she would have no problem returning a not guilty verdict." Id. The Court held that "once a prospective juror has made a clear statement during voir dire reflecting or indicating the presence of a disqualifying prejudice or bias, the prospective juror is disqualified as a matter of law and cannot be rehabilitated by subsequent questioning, later retractions, or promises to be fair." The Court made clear that prospective jurors who indicate disqualifying bias or prejudice should be disqualified as a matter of law, and judges should not attempt to rehabilitate those prospective jurors by extracting promises to be fair. The safest course - and the fairest course to the litigants - is to call another prospective juror.