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Criminal procedure — Voir dire — Racial animus

For over 85 years, both Maryland and federal law have required that courts ask prospective jurors about possible racial bias they may have against the accused in a criminal trial. See, e.g., Aldridge v. United States, 283 U.S. 308 (1931); Contee v. State, 223 Md. 575 (1960); Hernandez v. State, 357 Md. 204 (1999); and Hayes v. State, 217 Md. App. 159 (2014).

At his 2016 trial on handgun charges, Appellant Darnell Ford requested such a question be propounded: “The Defendant is an African American male. Does this fact affect your ability to render a fair and impartial verdict based solely on the evidence and the law?” The trial court declined to ask the question, and Appellant raises that refusal as the sole issue on appeal.

Read the opinion here: