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Court Discusses Washington Law Regarding Jury Selection

by | May 6, 2024 | Assault

The Washington Constitution, like the United States Constitution, grants criminal defendants the right to be tried before an impartial jury of their peers. While the courts generally rule in favor of protecting that right, they generally decline to extend it beyond the scope of the statutory language. This was demonstrated in a recent Washington ruling issued in an assault case in which the court held that the constitutional right to a jury trial does not extend to the process of jury selection. If you are charged with an assault offense, it is wise to meet with a Tacoma assault lawyer to evaluate your possible defenses.

Facts of the Case and Procedural Setting

It is reported that following an altercation with his step-daughter, the State charged the defendant with numerous crimes, including assault in the fourth degree against a family member. The incident that led to the charges occurred when the defendant’s step-daughter took his dog home for the night after finding it loose outside, prompting the defendant to confront her the next day. During the confrontation, the defendant physically assaulted his step-daughter, kicking and hitting her, preventing her from calling 911.

Allegedly, prior to trial, the defendant objected to remote voir dire proceedings, citing difficulties in communication with his counsel due to wearing masks and remote technology. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion, and the jury ultimately acquitted him of more severe charges but convicted him of fourth-degree assault against a family member. The defendant moved to vacate his conviction.

Washington Law Regarding Jury Selection

The defendant argued that remote voir dire violated his constitutional right to in-person jury selection and impeded his ability to have a fair and impartial jury. The court declined to adopt his reasoning, however.

In doing so, the court clarified that Article I, Section 21 of the Washington State Constitution, which guarantees the right to a jury trial, does not extend to regulating the process of jury selection. Additionally, the court found no evidence that remote jury selection affected the defendant’s ability to select a fair and impartial jury, especially considering the reasonable measures adopted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Regarding the defendant’s claim of financial hardship, the court agreed to remand to strike the victim penalty assessment but noted that the judgment and sentence did not impose a DNA collection fee.

Meet with a Capable Tacoma Attorney

People accused of assault crimes may fear that a conviction is inevitable, but in many cases, there are multiple defenses that they can assert to avoid a guilty verdict. If you are charged with an assault offense, it is wise to meet with an attorney as soon as possible. The capable Tacoma assault crime defense lawyers of The Law Offices of Smith & White possess the skills and resources needed to help you seek a positive outcome, and if you hire us, we will fight zealously on your behalf. You can reach us through our form online or by calling us at (253) 203-1645 to set up a meeting.