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Drake v. State: Court of Appeals Ruling on Voire Dire

Today the Maryland Court of Appeals issued an opinion on the proper use of voire dire in Maryland criminal trials.

Facts: Charles & Drake were tried together on charges stemming from the death of Bryant Jones. Both were convicted of second degree murder. Prior to the trial, the State submitted 3 voir dire questions concerning “CSI type” scientific evidence. Over defense counsel’s objection, the trial judge asked a single question which he drafted stating that he assumed the jurors watched TV such as CSI and Law and Order and that those shows relied on scientific evidence to convict- therefore, if “you are currently of the opinion or belief that you cannot convict a defendant without scientific evidence, please rise.” The Court of Special Appeals ruled that the question was appropriate. The Court of Appeals reversed.

Ruling: The Court noted that the language of the voir dire question suggested that the jury’s only option was to convict, regardless of the evidence presented. This suggestive question poisoned the jury thereby depriving the defendant of the right to a fair trial.

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