United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
B. Russell, Senior Judge United States District Court
matter comes before the Court upon Plaintiff United
States' Motion for a Supplemental Jury Questionnaire, [R.
16]. Defendant James Eakes responded, [R. 17]. For the
reasons stated herein, the United States' Motion for a
Supplemental Jury Questionnaire, [R. 16], is
DENIED Eakes is charged with one count of
willfully depriving an inmate's constitutional rights
while acting under color of law in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 242. [R. 1 at 1 (Indictment).] At the time of the
alleged incident, Eakes was a deputy at the Fulton County
Detention Center. [Id.] This matter is set for trial
by jury on April 29, 2019. [R. 14 at 1 (Amended Scheduling
United States requests the Court to authorize the use of its
proposed supplemental jury questionnaire. [R. 16 at 1.] The
United States argues that a jury questionnaire is necessary
in order to ensure the jury empaneled for the trial will be
fair and impartial in a case such as this one,
"involving the sensitive and potentially polarizing
issue of law enforcement misconduct." [R. 16 at 2.]
Furthermore, it cites several advantages to using a jury
questionnaire, such as giving jurors more time and privacy to
give their candid opinion on sensitive topics. [Id.
at 3.] In response, Eakes argues: "Nothing about the
charge or facts that will [be] presented at trial will
involve issues of such a personal nature that would suggest
such a questionnaire would be prudent to safeguard the
privacy interests of those on the panel. Nor will the trial
involve questions that cannot be readily addressed by the
Court during Voir Dire the first day of trial." [R. 17
at 1-2.] To be clear, Eakes does not object to questions
"which relate to a panelist's general views of law
enforcement based on their employment history or someone in
their family, or whether they have had experiences with law
enforcement or the criminal justice system which could affect
its judgment in the case." [Id. at 2.] However,
Eakes contends that the questions submitted by the United
States go beyond such an inquiry, especially the question
that references the Black Lives Matter political movement and
the questions that "track the facts of this case so
closely, they attempt to elicit answers which not only reveal
general perspectives but resolve to discover who on the panel
will return a verdict of guilty or not guilty based on
specific facts before they are even presented."
and foremost, the Court notes that "[t]here is no
federal constitutional requirement that courts use or jurors
answer juror questionnaires. 'The Constitution, after
all, does not dictate a catechism for voir dire[J
Morgan, 504 U.S. at 729, 112 S.Ct. 2222." White
v. Mackie, No. l:16-CV-867, 2017 WL 4621464, at *7 (W.D.
Mich. Sept. 18, 2017), recommendation adopted
by 2017 WL 4574835 (W.D. Mich. Oct. 13, 2017);
United States v. Gowder, No. 6:17-CV-25- REW-HAI,
2019 WL 109350, at *l-2 (E.D. Ky. Jan. 2, 2019) (same);
see also United States v. Phibbs, 999 F.2d 1053,
1071 (6th Cir. 1993) (noting trial court "discretion in
its management of the voir dire" and stating:
"Phibbs suggests that the written questionnaire created
by defendants was necessaiy[.] ... An individualized
examination of the jury venire is not, however, required by
the United States Constitution") As other courts in the
Sixth Circuit have stated on this topic:
Rule 24 provides that "the court may examine prospective
jurors or may permit the attorneys for the parties to do
so," Fed. Crim P 24(a), and "gives the court very
broad discretion on the conduct of the voir dire examination
of prospective jurors." United States v.
Schmucker, 815 F.2d 413, 421 (6th Cir. 1987). This
discretion extends to whether or not to permit juror
questionnaires, United States v. Treacy, 639 F.3d
32, 46 (2d Cir. 2011); United States v. Phibbs, 999
F.2d 1053, 1071 (6th Cir. 1993), and a trial court abuses its
discretion only "if it restricts the scope of voir dire
in a manner that unduly impairs the defendant's ability
to exercise his peremptory challenges or make his challenges
for cause," United States v. Martinez, 981L
F.2d 867 870 (6th Cir. 1992). Thus, "[w]hile pre-trial
juror questionnaires 'have become a favored device of
trial lawyers,' United States v.
Padilla-Valenzuela, 896 F.Supp. 968, 970 (D. Ariz.
1995), it is within the sound discretion of the trial court
to refuse to submit a party's questionnaire to
prospective jurors," particularly where the court finds
a questionnaire "invasive or simply unnecessary."
Vanderbilt Mortg. & Fin., Inc. v. Flores, No.
CIV.A. C-09-312 2010 WL 4281932, at *1 (S.D. Tex. Oct. 25,
United States v. Trumbo, No. 18-20403, 2019 WL
652303, at *4 (E.D. Mich. Feb. 15, 2019) (quoting United
States v. Darden, 346 F.Supp.3d 1096, 1139 (M.D. Tenn.
Court is not persuaded that a questionnaire is necessary in
order to avoid unduly impairing the parties' ability to
exercise preemptory challenges or make challenges for cause.
Any concerns about jurors' personal prejudice involving
law enforcement can be covered through the Court's
typical, oral voire dire inquiry without being overly
intrusive or overburdensome for the prospective jurors.
Furthermore, any sensitive matter a juror does not feel
comfortable discussing in front of other jurors may be
discussed individually with the Court at the bench. Thus, in
its "broad discretion on the conduct of the voir dire
examination of prospective jurors," the Court DENIES the
United States' Motion for a Supplemental Jury
Questionnaire, [R. 16], CONCLUSION
foregoing reasons, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED: the
United States' Motion for a Supplemental Jury
Questionnaire, [R. 16], is DENIED.