Amendment VII

Document 16

Mima Queen v. Hepburn

7 Cranch 290 1813

Marshall, C. J.: . . . The fourth exception also applies to an opinion given by the circuit court, respecting the service of one of the persons summoned as a juror. James Reed, when called, was questioned, and appeared to have formed and expressed no opinion on the particular case; but on being further questioned, he avowed his detestation of slavery to be such that, in a doubtful case, he would find a verdict for the plaintiffs; and that he had so expressed himself with regard to this very cause. He added, that if the testimony were equal, he should certainly find a verdict for the plaintiffs. The court then instructed the tryers that he did not stand indifferent between the parties. To this instruction an exception was taken.

It is certainly much to be desired that jurors should enter upon their duties with minds entirely free from every prejudice. Perhaps on general and public questions it is scarcely possible to avoid receiving some prepossessions, and where a private right depends on such a question, the difficulty of obtaining jurors whose minds are entirely uninfluenced by opinions previously formed is undoubtedly considerable. Yet they ought to be superior to every exception, they ought to stand perfectly indifferent between the parties; and although the bias which was acknowledged in this case might not perhaps have been so strong as to render it positively improper to allow the juror to be sworn on the jury, yet it was desirable to submit the case to those who felt no bias either way; and therefore the court exercised a sound discretion in not permitting him to be sworn.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 5, Amendment VII, Document 16
The University of Chicago Press

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