Government and the Protection of Individual Rights

In selecting the members of the jury for a jury trial, the panels for the defense and the prosecution participate in a process held for the purpose of examining the competency of potential jurors to hear and weigh evidence presented by both sides. The main objective of this process is to ensure that the final composition of the jury would be acceptable to both sides. Put another way, the members of the jury should be perceived by the defense and the prosecution to be neutral and have the capacity to deliberate on the aspects of the case objectively.

This exercise is being conducted for the sake of having a fair trial. To ensure a successful process of jury selection referred to as the voir dire, the lawyer for the defense and the government prosecutor are allowed to challenge the inclusion of potential jurors when they believe that such people might be biased against their side (State of Montana v. Eugene Ford, 2001). Removing a prospective juror from the pool could be done in two ways.

The first is by striking out a prospective juror “for cause” and the second is by exercising the allotted “peremptory challenges” granted to each side. Excluding a prospective juror “for cause” would require the concerned party to explain his or her reasons for doing so. If the explanation convinces the presiding judge, then the prospective juror is replaced. A prospective juror could be excused for cause, for instance, if it could be established that he or she is already familiar with the case before reporting for jury trial.

Peremptory challenges, on the other hand, could be used to exclude a prospective juror without need of any explanations and are often exercised when counsel feels uneasy with the prospective juror for some unexplainable reasons (State of Montana v. Eugene Ford, 2001). As Brenda’s attorney, I could make use of my peremptory challenge to strike out the prospective juror who is wearing a cap with NYPD printed on it.

The fact that he likes to wear such a cap could indicate his bias for policemen and could therefore deny my client her right to a fair trial considering that she was arrested after a rally which denounced policemen for arresting her boyfriend, Harry Hiphop (State of Montana v. Eugene Ford, 2001). Speaking of fairness, Brenda should not have been charged for “violating a statute that prohibits ‘vulgar or offensive expression in public’” in the first place. Her T-shirt with the words “Cops Suck” printed on it constituted an expressive conduct which is protected under the First Amendment.

In States v. O’Brien, supra, at 376, the United States Supreme Court declared that the First Amendment does not only protect spoken words but also written words and other actions or conduct that enable a person to express his or her idea (Texas v. Johnson, 1989). Her speech in which she said that “Someday, we’re going to hold these Gestapo cops accountable; we’re going to give them a taste of their own medicine” is also protected under the First Amendment. The decision of the Supreme Court in such cases as Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell, 485 U. S. and Bachellar v. Maryland, 397 U. S.

564, 567 (1970), declared that “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable. ” The state statute prohibiting “vulgar or offensive expression in public” could not therefore be applied by Trooper Hardbutt in arresting Brenda just because he did not like what Brenda said about policemen like him (Texas v. Johnson, 1989). Moreover, what Brenda said in her speech about cops could not be considered indecent nor could be labeled as “fighting words.

” It is common knowledge that people have been harboring ill-feelings towards police officers because of rampant police brutality and wrongful arrests. Therefore, comparing them to Gestapo cops could no longer be considered indecent. Her speech could not be categorized as “fighting words” either because the crowd dispersed peacefully after the rally and were not therefore incited to resort to any violent and aggressive behavior which could have produced “imminent disorder. ” Such was the Supreme Court decision in Hess v. Indiana (IU News Room, 2004).