Amanda Claxton

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You are on trial for a crime. Maybe you did precisely what the government claims, though perhaps not. However, a judge will not decide your fate because you exercised your constitutional right to a jury trial. During deliberations, you hear that a juror practices a religion condemning those who commit the crime you are accused of. You feel the juror would unfairly prejudice your chances of walking away freely. To your dismay, the judge refuses to dismiss the juror. You ask whether allowing this prejudicial juror to determine your fate is legal. After United States v. Brown, it is.

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals addressed a similar situation in Brown. There, the court dismissed a juror who stated during deliberations that the Holy Spirit told him the defendant was not guilty. This en banc decision will likely preclude district courts in the future from removing jurors who express religious prejudice yet convince the court that their religious views are unprejudicial.

Jurors should not participate in jury service if their beliefs keep them from deliberating using the facts presented. Contrastingly, courts should not discourage religion by dismissing jurors who merely practice constitutionally granted religious freedoms. Thus, when does religious freedom become legal persecution?