Controversy erupted this week on Aug. 31, in California when news broke that a federal judge, Edward Davila, dismissed nine designated jurors for not being vaccinated against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus.
Arguing that his goal was to keep jurors and their families healthy, Davila, the federal judge nominated by former President Obama, dismissed nine jurors, reigniting the controversy over mandatory vaccinations, reported Reuters.
In addition to the debate over the mandatory application of an experimental vaccine, the situation raised a question mark in the legal arena, where it is being debated whether the judge has the power to disarm a jury in this way, arguing that the members are not vaccinated against COVID-19.
In this regard, legal critics consulted by Reuters said the choice of a fully vaccinated jury could be within a court’s power, although they warned that the decision could lead to a reduction in the fairness of trials.
“I think it’s a reasonable decision in the midst of the pandemic, but yes, the elimination of unvaccinated people is likely to affect the makeup of the jury pool,” said Valerie Hans, a professor at Cornell Law School.
“Any unusual restrictions on who is eligible to serve on the jury in a particular case could raise issues on appeal,” added Kaspar Stoffelmayr, of the law firm Bartlit Beck.
While both the prosecution and defense in Holmes’ trial supported the decision to excuse unvaccinated jurors, the issue could be grounds to challenge a verdict in cases where the parties disagree.
Critics also pointed out that in the United States, where 86% of Democrats are vaccinated, compared to 54% of Republicans, imposing the vaccine requirement would mean that a majority of liberals would be on hand, given that conservatives maintain a lower vaccination rate, thus causing impartiality in the jury.
The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees defendants the right to be tried by an “impartial jury,” while landmark rulings have found that excluding jurors on the basis of race or sex violates that right, there is no precedent for finding that exclusion on the basis of vaccinations does as well.
As a matter of statistics, vaccinated juries are more likely to be made up of Democrats and liberals.
Further adding to the controversy is that the trial from which the jurors were removed is not an ordinary trial, but the case against the well-known Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos, which is of international public importance.
Holmes and her co-defendant and ex-partner Ramesh Balwani are accused of perpetrating a scheme that defrauded investors of millions of dollars by claiming that Theranos’ blood testing laboratory services were revolutionary and readily available despite knowing that Theranos could not consistently produce accurate and reliable results for some blood tests.