His jury trial took place during the COVID-19 Pandemic. At that time, King County Superior Court had just reopened for in-person criminal jury trials. Nevertheless, remote jury selection was still the preferred process for conducting voir dire. This process allowed the parties to conduct jury selection by video conference using the ZOOM Meeting Application.
Mr. Wade objected to electronic or virtual jury selection on various grounds. He argued this process violated his constitutional right to a jury drawn from a fair cross-section of the community. The trial court denied his motion. The jury found him guilty as charged.
On appeal, Wade challenged the use of remote videoconferencing technology for jury selection pursuant to court orders authorizing its use to reduce risk of COVID-19 exposure. He claims this method of jury selection violated his right to a jury drawn from a fair cross-section of the community because it excluded people based on their race and economic status, as well as his right to a fair trial.
COURT’S ANALYSIS & CONCLUSIONS
The Court of Appeals gave its criteria for establishing a violation of the defendant’s right to a jury drawn from a fair cross-section of the community:
“A prima facie violation requires three elements: (1) that the group alleged to be excluded is a ‘distinctive’ group in the community; (2) that the representation of this group in venires from which juries are selected is not fair and reasonable in relation to the number of such persons in the community; and (3) that this underrepresentation is due to systematic exclusion of the group in the jury-selection process.” ~WA Court of Appeals
Applying this criteria, the Court acknowledged that Wade indeed established that both African-Americans and people of low economic status comprise distinct groups.
“However, Wade fails to show that representation of these groups in the venires from which juries are selected is not fair and reasonable in relation to the number of such persons in the community,” said the Court. “He presents no evidence establishing the proportion of African-Americans or the prevalence of low economic status either in King County or Wade’s venire.”
Furthermore, the Court found that Wade failed to establish the third element of his case. Here, potential jurors had already been selected from the jury pool, summonsed by postcard, questioned, and hardship dismissals granted before the technical requirements of remote jury selection were introduced.
With that, the Court of Appeals upheld Wade’s conviction.
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