Before potential jurors can be selected for a trial, a question-and-answer process known as “voir dire” is used to test whether they can be impartial, unbiased, and don’t have any conflicts of interest. In Wayne County, Jeffrey Six was put on trial for criminal financial fraud. As part of his defense he alleged that his former domestic partner, a man, was the one who actually engaged in the fraudulent transaction. Because this defense would require jurors to learn that he is gay, his attorneys requested that the jury voir dire include an inquiry into the jurors’ attitudes regarding gay relationships. The judge denied the request and Mr. Six was convicted.
In 2018 the ACLU of Michigan joined Lambda Legal in filing a friend-of-the-court brief in the Michigan Court of Appeals arguing that the right to a fair trial and an impartial jury requires voir dire regarding anti-gay bias when the fact of an LGBT relationship is inextricably bound up with the issues to be decided at trial. In January 2020 the Court of Appeals remanded the case back to the trial court for an explanation as to why the voir dire was not allowed. Following proceedings on remand, in January 2021 we submitted an additional friend-of-the-court brief reaffirming our support of allowing voir dire to include inquiries regarding anti-gay bias.
(People v. Six; ACLU Attorney Jay Kaplan; co-counsel Ethan Rice, Richard Saenz, and Max Isaacs of Lambda Legal.)