Brief filed: 06/04/2018
Lacaze v. Louisiana
United States Supreme Court; Case No. 17-1566
Decision below 239 So.3d 807 (La. 2018)
This Court should resolve the inconsistent application of McDonough resulting from a well-established circuit split to ensure criminal defendants receive strong and uniform protections against juror bias. This Court has never clarified McDonough’s application in criminal cases. Courts applying the McDonough test for juror bias in the criminal context have largely ignored the constitutional divide between criminal and civil defendants. Courts’ application of McDonough ignores these nuances, resulting in disparate and inadequate protections for criminal defendants. The Louisiana Supreme Court wrongly deprived Mr. Lacaze of his Sixth Amendment right to an impartial jury. Against the backdrop of criminal juries’ remarkable power and unique responsibilities, McDonough requires that a new trial be granted when (1) a juror fails, intentionally or unintentionally, to answer honestly a material question on voir dire; and (2) the truthful answer provides a basis upon which a reasonable judge would have struck the juror for cause. In a system where criminal defendants face the most extreme penalties available under the law, allegations of jurors’ bias must be thoroughly scrutinized to ensure they are impartially carrying out their grave responsibility: to fairly and accurately assess an accused’s guilt or innocence.
Pieter Van Tol, Hogan Lovells US LLP, New York, NY; Elizabeth C. Lockwood and Kaitlin Welborn, Hogan Lovells US LLP; Jeffrey T. Green, NACDL, Washington, DC.