Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Plymouth
Heard: October 2, 2018.
received and sworn to in the Brockton Division of the
District Court Department on March 1, 2016.
case was tried before Daniel J. Hourihan, J.
Supreme Judicial Court granted an application for direct
Crane for the defendant.
M. McKenna, Assistant District Attorney, for the
Anthony Mirenda, Caroline S. Donovan, Amanda Hainsworth,
Christopher J. Cifrino, & Justin Marble, for
Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers &
others, amici curiae, submitted a brief.
Rebecca Kiley, Committee for Public Counsel Services, for
Committee for Public Counsel Services, amicus curiae,
submitted a brief.
Present (Sitting at Worcester): Gants, C.J., Lenk, Gaziano,
Lowy, Budd, Cypher, & Kafker, JJ.
defendant, Quinton K. Williams, an African-American man, was
charged with possession of a class B substance with the
intent to distribute pursuant to G. L. c. 94C, § 32A
(a.) . During jury selection, over the defendant's
objection, the judge excused for cause a prospective juror
who stated that she believed that "the system is rigged
against young African American males." The defendant
subsequently was convicted and now appeals, claiming that the
judge abused his discretion in dismissing the prospective
jurisprudence regarding how to assess beliefs or opinions
expressed by prospective jurors during voir dire has been
less than clear. Accordingly, we take this opportunity to set
forth the factors that a judge should consider when a
prospective juror discloses a belief or opinion based on his
or her world view. We conclude that although the voir dire
was incomplete, it did not prejudice this defendant. Thus, we
affirm the conviction.
jury selection, the judge asked questions of the entire
venire, including the following:
"[Y]ou've been read a copy of the complaint which
charges [the defendant], which is just an allegation, that he
possessed [a] class B controlled substance, cocaine, with the
intent to distribute.
"Is there anything about the subject matter or your
views about the subject matter that would affect your ability
to be fair and impartial in deciding the case?"
juror no. 15 (prospective juror), among other potential
jurors, answered in the affirmative. Subsequently, the judge
and the prospective juror had the following exchange at
Q.: "I believe you might have answered a question
affirmatively. Was that a -- a hardship question?"
The clerk: "No. ... It was on fair and
impartial . . . [o]r bias."
Q.: "You feel like you might have a bias in the
A.: "Yeah. I worked with, like, low income youth in a
school setting. I worked a lot with people who were convicted
of -- like teenagers who were convicted of drug crimes.
"And frankly, I think the system is rigged against young
African American males.
"I'm happy to serve on the jury trial -- on the jury
because I think it's important, but -- "
Q.: "You think that belief might interfere with your
ability to be fair and impartial?"
A.: "I don't think so."
Q.: "You -- you think you can put aside that opinion and
bias -- "
A.: "I don't think I can put it aside. I think
A.:" -- the lens that I view the world through, but I
think I can be unbiased -- I think I can be -- I think I can
listen to the evidence."
Q.: "All right. But you're going to have to be able
to put that out of your mind and look at only the evidence.
Do you think you can do that?"
A.: "I think so."
Q.: "I have to be assured that you can though. You think
you -- as -- as you sit in there, it might -- your
experiences with -- with people in that type of a situation
is going to have you look at it differently?"
Q.: "Okay. Step over there for a minute."
the prospective juror stepped away from the sidebar, the
Commonwealth requested that she be excused for cause and the