Massachusetts law about jury selection

A compilation of laws, rules, cases, and web sources on jury selection law by the Trial Court Law Libraries.

Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.234A, s. 67A-67D Examination of jurors

Selected cases

Federal cases

  • Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986)
    "Exclusion of black citizens from service as jurors constitutes a primary example of the evil the Fourteenth Amendment was designed to cure."
  • Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court of California, 464 U.S. 501 (1984)
    The court held that the guarantees of open public proceedings in criminal trials embodied in the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution cover voir dire examination of potential jurors. Trial court cannot close without specific findings that an open proceeding threatened the defendant's right to a fair trial and the right to privacy of the prospective jurors and without considering available alternatives.
  • Waller v. Georgia, 467 U.S. 39 (1984)
    Articulates the 4 requirements for closure of a courtroom — overriding public interest, narrowly tailored closure, consideration of reasonable alternatives, and judicial findings supporting closure
  • Weaver v. Massachusetts, 582 US __,  137 S. Ct. 1899 (2017)
    "[W]hile the public-trial right is important for fundamental reasons, in some cases an unlawful closure might take place and yet the trial still will be fundamentally fair from the defendant’s standpoint...Thus, when a defendant raises a public-trial violation via an ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim,...the burden is on the defendant to show either a reasonable probability of a different outcome in his or her case or... to show that the particular public-trial violation was so serious as to render his or her trial fundamentally unfair."

State cases

  • Comm. v. Downey, 78 Mass. App. Ct. 224 (2010)
    "Conviction must be reversed because the closure of the courtroom during jury impanelment violated his right to a public trial guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution."
  • Comm. v. Shea, 460 Mass 163 (2011)
    Outlines best practices for voir dire. "The better practice is to ask jurors to raise their hands in response to each question when they answer in the affirmative, request court officers to read the juror numbers of those raising their hands into the record, and allow the parties, the judge, and the court clerk to know (and the record to preserve) who answered "yes" to which question, so that a juror can be reminded of the answer if the juror fails to mention it at sidebar during individual voir dire, and appropriate inquiry can take place."
  • Comm. v. Robertson, 480 Mass. 383 (2018)
    "Where a juror’s membership in a protected class is reasonably in dispute, trial judges...ought to presume that the juror is a member of the protected class at issue.
  • Comm. v. Soares, 377 Mass. 461 (1979)
    "The right to a peer jury [includes] the assurance that peremptory challenges will not be exercised so as to exclude members of discrete groups simply by virtue of that affiliation."
  • Comm. v. Toolan, 460 Mass. 452 (2011)
    ​​​​​​​Defendant was entitled to new trial based on possible juror prejudice where judge failed to question prospective jurors in a way that he could determine each juror was impartial despite exposure to media coverage
  • Comm. v. Williams, 481 Mass. 443 (2019)
    Where a prospective juror had expressed the opinion that "the system is rigged against young African American males," the court held that " asking a prospective juror to put aside his or her preconceived notions about the case to be tried is entirely appropriate (and indeed necessary); however, asking him or her to put aside opinions formed based on his or her life experiences or belief system is not."

Print sources

Art and science of jury selection in criminal cases, MCLE, 2011

Gobert, James J. and Walter E. Jordan. Jury selection: the law, art and science of selecting a jury, West 2009-

Blue, Lisa and Robert B. Hirschorn. Blue's Guide to Jury Selection, Thomson/West, with supplement.

Frederick, Jeffrey T. Mastering voir dire and jury selection: gain an edge in questioning, ABA, 2011.

Rogers, Alan, "An anchor to the windward: the right of the accused to an impartial jury in Massachusetts capital cases," 33 Suffolk U L Rev 35 (1999-2000). An exhaustive history. 

Voir dire: watch and learn, MCLE, 2017. 



Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only


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Last updated: February 25, 2019