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Ruling clarifies how judges must assess jurors

Jurors in Maryland and around the country play an important role in the American justice system. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) has said that jurors are allowed to let their personal beliefs influence their thought process during a case. The case that led to the court's decision involved a black man who was convicted of possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute it. A prospective juror said that she believed that the justice system was rigged against black men.

The juror was excused despite claiming that she could be impartial in rendering a verdict. According to a document written by the SJC's only black judge, merely holding beliefs about how people are treated in the justice system doesn't disqualify a juror by itself. It is important to note that jurors are still generally required to be able to put aside preconceived notions when hearing evidence in a case.

However, as long as jurors can put aside their beliefs to judge the case on its merits, they can be considered to serve. In a concurring opinion, two other justices recognized that every person who serves on a jury has beliefs or opinions shaped by life experience. Ultimately, the court recognized that it would be impractical to hold that against an otherwise qualified prospective juror.

Being convicted of a crime could result in long-term consequences. Those consequences could include spending time in jail or on probation. Furthermore, an individual may have a difficult time finding work or getting an education because of a conviction. An attorney may help an individual obtain a favorable outcome by challenging the prosecution's evidence and convincing the jury that such evidence is flawed or was obtained illegally.

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