Menu

After Matarranz v. State, Florida Supreme Court Makes Juror Rehabilitation as to Bias Based on “Unfortunate Past Life Experience” Difficult, If Not Impossible

White Collar Crime & Government Investigations   |   October 22, 2013
Download   
Share Page

In Matarranz v. State, 133 So. 3d 473 (Fla. 2013), the Florida Supreme Court announced a dramatic change that will have a practical effect on jury selection in Florida. After Matarranz, a prospective juror who indicates a bias for or against a party because of an unfortunate past life experience, can no longer be rehabilitated about that bias, and must be stricken for cause.

Before Matarranz, it was relatively easy for the lawyers involved to rehabilitate a juror who admitted bias against a party based on an unfortunate past life experience, such as being a crime victim. The rehabilitation consisted of asking jurors whether they could put aside their unfortunate experience, and be fair and impartial in the case. Now, however, such rehabilitation is difficult, if not impossible, because the Florida Supreme Court recognized that jurors may claim they can put asides their biases, but in reality cannot.

The Florida Supreme Court explained:

Any lawyer who has spent time in our courtrooms, whether civil or criminal, has experienced the frustration of prospective juror expressing extreme bias against his or her client and then recanting upon expert questioning by the opposition, which generates such embarrassment as to produce a socially and politically correct recantation. When a juror expresses his or her unease and reservations based on actual life experiences, as opposed to stating such attitudes in response to vague or academic questioning, it is not appropriate for the trial court to attempt to “rehabilitate” a juror into rejection of those expressions — as occurred here.

In Matarranz, a juror explained that she could not be fair to the defendant because her family’s home had been burglarized during Christmas when she was eight years old, and because one of her family members had been a victim of fraud. The juror further explained that she believed she could set aside her negative feelings and listen to the evidence, but that she had “an old mind in all things” and would prefer not to be forced to do so. Allowing this juror to remain on the panel was error and the court should have excused her for cause despite her rehabilitation concerning her bias.

Trial judges and counsel should be mindful of Matarranz and its implications going forward in both civil and criminal cases. Once a juror admits a bias based on an unfortunate life experience, extreme caution must be exercised before the juror is allowed to serve despite the juror’s explanation for the bias. Matarranz might result in the need to seat larger groups for jury selection because more jurors might now be excused for cause under Florida law, and for cause challenges of jurors under Florida law are unlimited. Fla. Stat. § 913.03 and Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.431.


©2019 Carlton Fields, P.A. Carlton Fields practices law in California through Carlton Fields, LLP. Carlton Fields publications should not be construed as legal advice on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general information and educational purposes only, and should not be relied on as if it were advice about a particular fact situation. The distribution of this publication is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship with Carlton Fields. This publication may not be quoted or referred to in any other publication or proceeding without the prior written consent of the firm, to be given or withheld at our discretion. To request reprint permission for any of our publications, please use our Contact Us form via the link below. The views set forth herein are the personal views of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the firm. This site may contain hypertext links to information created and maintained by other entities. Carlton Fields does not control or guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this outside information, nor is the inclusion of a link to be intended as an endorsement of those outside sites.

Subscribe to Publications

Disclaimer

The information on this website is presented as a service for our clients and Internet users and is not intended to be legal advice, nor should you consider it as such. Although we welcome your inquiries, please keep in mind that merely contacting us will not establish an attorney-client relationship between us. Consequently, you should not convey any confidential information to us until a formal attorney-client relationship has been established. Please remember that electronic correspondence on the internet is not secure and that you should not include sensitive or confidential information in messages. With that in mind, we look forward to hearing from you.