Can prospective jurors as to whether they can imagine that a competent, but lonely, elderly client might voluntarily make a substantial gift to his attorney?

California, United States of America


The following excerpt is from People v. Kronemyer, 189 Cal.App.3d 314, 234 Cal.Rptr. 442 (Cal. App. 1987):

We believe the trial court erred in refusing to allow inquiry of prospective jurors as to whether they could imagine that a competent, but lonely, elderly client might voluntarily make a substantial gift to his or her attorney. The answer to such questions would be either yes or no. A person who could not conceive that such a gift could occur is arguably subject to being excused for cause as not having an open mind in this case. In any event, it is a legitimate inquiry for a peremptory challenge. Even though a person only finds it "difficult to imagine" such a scenario, this revelation suggests additional directly relevant questions concerning the impartiality of such a person to be a juror on the facts of this case, irrespective of that person's verbal assurance he or she could be impartial and set aside any personal attitudes. A verbal statement he or she will set aside any personal experiences and/or attitudes concerning a particular state of facts, standing alone, does not establish that person will be a fair and impartial juror. In order for a party, and even the court, to make such a determination it is necessary to know the nature of those experiences and attitudes and how strongly they are held. An averment that one can set aside personal experiences in judging a case is of little value because one simply may not be aware of the strength, or perhaps even the existence, of biases which have developed because of personal experiences. (See People v. Williams, supra, 29 Cal.3d 392, 402-404, 174 Cal.Rptr. 317, 628 P.2d 869.)

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