We’re now more than 18 months into the pandemic. In many areas of life, things are starting to inch towards normal again. Courthouses across the country are starting to resume in-person trials. However, concerns about maintaining health and safety in the courtroom are raising interesting questions.
One question that many judges have had to consider is whether it’s acceptable to require members of a jury to be vaccinated. In one high-profile case, the judge determined that the answer was “yes.”
Elizabeth Holmes, the former CEO of Theranos blood-testing company is currently on trial for wire fraud and associated federal charges. In her trial, U.S. District Judge Edward Davila opted to dismiss nine potential jurors on the basis that they were unvaccinated. While his impetus for doing so was to help ensure the health of everyone involved in the trial, the decision has also received some scrutiny.
Is a vaccinated jury as fair?
Some argue that only allowing vaccinated jurors has the potential to alter trial outcomes. A jury is meant to be representative of the entire population. However, those who have chosen to get the COVID-19 vaccine tend to fall under a certain demographic. Vaccinated people are more likely to be white, female, college educated, politically liberal and in a higher income bracket.
The 6th Amendment guarantees a right to an impartial jury – but a jury of all-vaccinated people could be more likely to hold similar beliefs and outlooks.
How could this affect a case?
By and large, the unvaccinated population tends to be more politically conservative. According to one expert, the unvaccinated also tend to be more critical of the government and corporations at large. Therefore, in a white-collar case such as the Theranos trial, an unvaccinated jury may be less likely to sympathize with a former-CEO defendant.
What can be done?
Speculation on how a certain type of jury could rule is by no means scientific. People will make their own decisions – regardless of their demographic makeup. However, if you’re facing criminal charges, it’s worth working with a lawyer who understands how these types of variables could affect your case. For instance, any new and unusual restrictions in juror eligibility could create additional grounds for appeal.