Allowing jurors to ask witnesses questions in criminal cases doesn’t violate a defendant’s right to a fair trial and has many benefits, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled this week, reports the Denver Post. Juror questioning helps the search for the truth, clarifies facts in complex cases, allows the jury to fulfill its role as the finder of facts, and increases juror attentiveness and satisfaction, the court said.
“While a defendant does have the right to an unbiased jury, he is not entitled to have his case presented to a jury that sits as a passive receptacle of information,” said Justice Michael Bender. The state public defender’s office argued that allowing questions from the jury encourages jurors to decide facts and form opinions before all the evidence is presented; allows the prosecution to restructure its case according to the questions; and risks offending jurors if a lawyer should object to the question. Juror questions were first allowed in Colorado in 2000 as part of a study that involved 239 trials. Bender said several studies concluded that the purported harmful consequences of jury questioning are unsupported by the data.