If you are accused of a sex crime in West Virginia, especially a crime involving a child, it can impact your life forever. Your reputation in your community can greatly suffer for many years to come even if the charges are dropped or you are found not guilty.
Still, you should not give up if you are facing a trial for a sex crime involving a child. You still have rights, including the right to a fair trial before an impartial jury.
The right to an impartial jury
The right to a trial by an impartial jury can be found in the Sixth Amendment. Jurors selected to hear a case must be unbiased.
The jury selection process begins before the trial. It is called “voir dire.” The aim of voir dire is to decide if a potential juror can remain impartial, and to weed out those potential jurors who cannot.
In voir dire, the prosecution, defense attorney and judge will ask potential jurors questions. They want to see if a potential juror is biased, prejudiced or has a conflict of interest that could negatively affect the defendant’s case.
If either the prosecution or defense decides a potential juror should not be selected because they likely could not be impartial, they will be eliminated from the jury pool “for cause.
Impartiality and sex crimes
Trials for sex crimes can be highly emotional, especially if children are allegedly involved. People often view sex crimes against children to be the worst kind of crimes. This makes the voir dire process very important.
You want to weed out potential jurors who answer voir dire questions appropriately but are still likely to side with the alleged victim of the sex crime regardless of the defendant’s innocence. Some people may even feel like it is their responsibility to throw the book at those they think committed a sex crime against a child.
This makes the Sixth Amendment and voir dire more important than ever. If a juror does show bias at a trial, it may be possible to file an appeal.