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Walter and Bob are potential jurors for the same trial for a white supremacist. Walter happens to believe in white supremacy. Bob happens to be Walter's boss (or even just a potential employer).

During jury selection, they ask Walter about anything that should disqualify him from acting as a juror. So Walter says "I'm a white supremacist, and cannot act unbaised for this case", which is the honest truth.

Is Bob the boss, after hearing this information, allowed to fire/discriminate against Walter? Or air out to the public that Walter is a white supremacist?

Assuming everyone acts honestly/truthfully according to the law, what's "supposed" to happen in this case? Walter is obliged to say he'd be a biased juror, and Bob is probably obliged to let his job and close ones know that Walter holds unsavory beliefs. I'm not sure how this is supposed to play out...

Edit: if, on some technicality, White supremacy doesn't fit the bill, then feel free to substitute any other relevant thing: e.g. Walter is a previous serial rapist, or part of the KKK, or likes pineapple pizza, whatever have you. Basically, try to give an answer to the "intent" of my question, not the "word" of my question >.<. The important thing isn't Walter's beliefs, or Bob's relationship to Walter. I'm asking how any juror is protected about what they say during Jury selection. When the Judge asks about their family situation in the courtroom, should they feel free and comfortable talking about it?

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    I don't think having a political believe like that makes you a protected class...
    – Trish
    Nov 6 at 8:47
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    @Trish indeed, there are public examples of people being fired because of public statements that don't reflect the company's desired public image, including racist statements. On the other hand, chausies, a hypothesis that implicates a protected class could involve a disclosure of sexual orientation, ancestry, or something like that. But this is less interesting because the discrimination would be clearly prohibited in such a case.
    – phoog
    Nov 6 at 9:19
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    @phoog The crux of the question isn't the statements or whether they're protected in general. The question is whether, in the courtroom, during jury selection, if such statements are protected. Or are statements made there also considered "public" just as sure as if one shouted them in public? Is Walter supposed to pretend like he's not a white supremacist during Jury selection just like he pretends the same in public at work?
    – chausies
    Nov 6 at 9:24
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    I suppose the juror should say that he can't be unbiased but ask for the reason not to be disclosed in open court because he could suffer harm if it became publicly known. I doubt that the employer could be prevented from firing someone in the circumstances presented in the question. I find it more likely that the judge would allow any specific discussion of the reason to take place in private. But I don't know much about jury selection, so I hope someone who does will answer.
    – phoog
    Nov 6 at 9:28
  • Why would the boss be obliged to inform anyone of someone's "unsavory beliefs"? Most moral systems I'm aware of forbid exactly that.
    – B. Goddard
    Nov 7 at 20:57

3 Answers 3

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The jury selection process (voir dire) is normally done in open court. Walter's statements would be heard by anyone present. Reporters can be present, and may choose to publish accounts, including quotes of such statements. In short, Walter's statements are likely to become widely known.

Given the "at will" nature of most US employment, an employer may fire, or refuse to hire, Walter for any expressed belief of Walter's of which the employer does not approve, with the narrow exceptions covered by anti-discrimination law. There is no special protection for statements made during court proceedings, except that such statements generally can not be grounds for defamation suits.

Thus the law grants Walter no specific protection in such a case. What Walter could do is say something such as:

I have a personal belief which would make it impossible for me to be an unbiased juror inn this case. I would prefer not to discuss the details in public.

The judge might simply dismiss Walter, or might question Walter in chambers with the lawyers present but off the record.

Of course Walter could lie, and claim to be unbiased. If Walter's views are not known to others, or not to many others, such a lie might be unlikely to be exposed. Of course, if exposed, Walter might be punished for contempt of court, or in theory for perjury, although that last is quite unlikely.

But the answer to the question asked here is that Walter has no special protection because his statement was made as part of a court proceeding. A state legislature (or congress, for federal proceedings) could perhaps provide such protections, but to the best of my knowledge, none has to date.

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    Is it possible to prove one has lied about their views? This seems like a matter of opinion and thus impossible to prosecute. Nov 7 at 15:56
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    If Walter had previously done such things as: posted white supremacist (WS) views on a website; discussed WS views with others who would testify; boasted that he would get the accused off; participated in WS events; formally joined WS groups, particularly one led by the accused; corresponded with the accused about WS events; had WS literature in his home; contributed money to group led by the accused; been convicted of hate crimes; written and published WS pamphlets or books; that might be evience that Walter lied under oath in noir dire. Views ofte leave evidence. Nov 7 at 16:05
  • Is the voir dire part of the public written record? In other words, if Walter's boss was not present in court, could he later look up the selection process records to see what Walter said? Or is the voir dire not recorded word for word like a trial, say.
    – BruceWayne
    Nov 8 at 20:26
  • @BruceWayne I think so but I am not sure. I am sure that reporters can and do attend and report on the voir dite and such reports may be published. Nov 8 at 21:20
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Transcripts of such interviews would generally be public records in US states: a potential juror can be prosecuted for false statements made in the interview. They can invoke their right to silence if their truthful testimony would tend to incriminate them (there is also the option that they could be granted immunity from prosecution). However, this does not protect them from civil action or negative social consequences.

For the most part, your boss can hold against you anything that you say or don't say (during voire dire, at trial, in a bar...). Some statements pertain to legally-proteced class status, so if you testify "I am Muslim, I don't eat pork", your boss cannot then fire you for confessing that you are Muslim (or for being Muslim), and again it does not matter where you made the statement – there is no special protection for voire dire testimony. The legal protection that exists relates to religion, and not a protection of statements about pork-eating.

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So your edit does address a critical point. A member of a certain ideology does not make me automatically disqualified from acting as a juror. Taking your intent over words, I'm going to substitute in Walter being an avid lover of pineapple pizza to demonstrate with less charged opinions. For the record, Pineapple Pizza is my favorite thing in the whole world, and my favorite breakfast food is cold leftover pineapple pizza.

Now, in the grand scheme of things, Pineapple Pizza will not be critical to most cases a jury will be asked to hear, so... assuming this is a world where the war between Pineapple Pizza lovers and Non-Pineapple Pizza lovers is at a level where expressing support for Pineapple Pizza will get me canceled, dropped from social media, and have late night comedy mocking me endlessly if I openly said so... my belief shouldn't disqualify me from hearing evidence in a murder trial where pizza does not factor into the events of the murder.

Now, where this becomes a problem is lets say the person on trial is a pizza delivery boy, who killed the victim because the victim ordered a Pineapple Pizza. As a Pineapple Pizza lover, I would probably be a poor jurist because how dare someone kill over their refusal to admit the supremacy of Pineapple and Canadian Bacon as pizza toppings.

The reason why this would be undesirable is that my disagreement with pizza boy over pizza might blind me to his valid defense: He delivered the pizza and called his girlfriend, and proceeded to talk with her on the phone while he returned to the pizza shop, where his boss told him to get off the phone and because it was a slow night, he stayed at the pizza shop for the entire three hour window that the corner said the man victim could have been killed in.

In effect, now, the bias is self assessed. Walter might not think he could be that fare. Me personally, I'm not really so diehard about Pizza toppings that I can't say "Sure, the pizza boy hates pineapple on pizza and the world would be a better place without his wrong think... but I'm not willing to send him to jail because he hates pizza I like... if we have alibis for the entire time he could have committed the crime, he may be guilty of having terrible tastes... but he's not a murder.

The Jury questions usually are written in a way such that they ask if you would be unable to judge a case fairly given a certain topic. So they aren't going to ask "Do you like Pineapple Pizza?" but rather "As a juror on this case, you may be asked to hear testimony regarding the defendant's opinions on pizza toppings. Do you believe this testimony will affect your ability to render a fair verdict?"

In the case of a negative answer, it doesn't show my support, it doesn't show the opinion, it only asks will I be able to be fair in my assessment of the evidence and the guilt in the eyes of the law. If I answer yes, I'm not giving my opinion. It just means I would likely change my verdict based on the defendant's opinion. Convicting an innocent man because we do not agree on a controversial issue is juts as wrong as acquitting a guilty man because we agree.

Generally, the stuff that will get you out of jury duty the faster than having a bias against someone of a protected class is rather mundane... people who are victims of crime, people who serve in law enforcement or work in the legal system or have close friends or family that do are often out, because they are more likely to pick the prosecution's side because of bias against crime and not because of whether or not the guy on trial is actually guilty.

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