The LDS Juror and The Clueless Lawyer

Just about everyone who knows me well, knows that I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Most Orange County attorneys who regularly appear in my court know I’m LDS.

I was presiding over a driving under the influence (DUI) jury trial. We were selecting the jury. The clerks, bailiff, reporter, and prosecutor all knew I am Mormon. The only one who apparently did not know this was the criminal defense attorney from L.A.

When I questioned the jurors I asked, “Is there anyone who does not drink?” I follow that up by asking, “Is the reason you don’t drink a health or medical type reason or more of a religious or philosophical reason?” 

When the person identifies a religious or philosophical reason I inquire, “Can you set aside your personal standards, and decided this case based on the facts and the law?” I do not ask about their religion.

One of the prospective jurors blurted out, “I’m Mormon, but I can set aside my personal religious beliefs and be fair.” 

At the first break, the defense attorney said, “Your honor, I make a motion to excuse the Mormon juror for cause.” 

I responded, “She said she could set aside her religious beliefs and be fair.”

The defense attorney replied:“There is no way a Mormon can be fair in a drunk driving case. They are judgmental. They are prejudiced. They are self-righteous. They are biased.”  The lawyer went on and on. 

My staff and the prosecutor started lowering their heads.  I put on my best poker face and let the attorney stick his foot farther and farther into his mouth.

            The following dialogue took place:
            Judge: Counsel, have I appeared to be prejudiced your client. 
            Atty: No, your honor. 
            Judge: Have I appeared to be biased against him? 
            Atty: No, your honor.
Judge: Do I appear to be self-righteous?
Atty: No.
            Judge: Have I been unfair to your client in anyway?
            Atty: Of course not, your honor you have been very fair to my client.
            Judge: I’m Mormon.

I wish I had a camera to capture the expression on the attorney’s face. After gathering his thoughts, he sheepishly said, “I withdraw my motion.” 

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