MLFA Legal Expert Ponders Unmasking Bias in Jury Selection

Unmasking Bias in Jury Selection: The Power and Potential of Jury Questionnaires

In a society increasingly swayed by polarization and politics, securing a fair jury trial can be an uphill battle. This is particularly true in the criminal justice system, where biases against Muslim men and women add layers of complexity. Sufia Khalid, one of the attorneys at Muslim Legal Fund of America’s Criminal Litigation Team, dives deep into this issue in her article, “Seeking a Fair American Jury Trial: Using Jury Questionnaires to Identify Bias,” published by The National Association of Muslim Lawyers. 

Khalid argues that the current method of jury selection, which involves limited judge-led questioning, often fails to uncover deep-seated biases. This is especially true in cases involving Muslim American defendants charged with national security-related federal offenses. In these instances, she advocates for the use of jury questionnaires, a tool that has proven effective in revealing hidden biases.
In one example, she shares how juror questionnaires revealed startling anti-Muslim biases during a trial. Several jurors admitted to holding prejudiced views about Muslims, which led to their dismissal from the jury.

However, securing the use of a questionnaire isn’t always easy. It requires crafting a balanced set of questions and presenting a compelling argument to the court about the potential for bias in the jury pool. Despite these challenges, Sufia maintains that the effort is well worth it.
The benefits of using a questionnaire are manifold: they improve court efficiency, prevent jury contamination, and quickly identify biased jurors. In some cases, they’ve even reduced the length of jury selection from three days to just one.

To delve deeper into the intricacies of jury selection and the use of questionnaires to root out bias, read the full article here.