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Marshall v. City of Chicago

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

August 11, 2014

KENNETH MARSHALL, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, et al., Defendants-Appellees

Argued: June 5, 2014.

Page 574

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 1:12-cv-02591 -- Thomas M. Durkin, Judge.

For Kenneth Marshall, Plaintiff - Appellant: Kenneth N. Flaxman, Attorney, Chicago, IL.

For City of Chicago, Brandon Smith, Raymond Wilke, Defendants - Appellees: Stephen G. Collins, Attorney, City of Chicago Law Department, Appeals Division, Chicago, IL.

Before WOOD, Chief Judge, and EASTERBROOK and KANNE, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 575

Kanne, Circuit Judge.

On April 8, 2010, Chicago police officers executing a search warrant on a south side residence discovered a shotgun in one of the bedrooms. Earlier, plaintiff Kenneth Marshall, who was present in the residence, had suggested that the bedroom was his. Marshall is a convicted felon. Accordingly, the officers placed him under arrest and took him into custody on the theory that he constructively possessed a firearm while it was unlawful for him to do so. In this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action, Marshall sued the City of Chicago and the law enforcement officers involved in his arrest for damages on the theory that the arrest was not supported by probable cause.

The matter proceeded to trial, and a jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendants. Marshall appeals, challenging two aspects of the jury selection process. First, Marshall argues that the district court abused its discretion by denying his motion to excuse a prospective juror for cause on the grounds that she held a prior belief concerning the possession of firearms by convicted felons, which Marshall believed made her unfit to serve. Second, Marshall argues that the district court erred by refusing to agree to an ad hoc alteration of the parties' agreed-upon jury selection procedures for the express purpose of ensuring that the petit jury would include jurors of a certain race. Both of Marshall's arguments are meritless, and we affirm the judgment of the district court.

I

Marshall's first argument concerns the district court's denial of his motion to excuse a prospective juror for cause. A fair trial requires an impartial trial of fact: a jury capable and willing to decide the case solely on the evidence before it. McDonough Power Equipment, Inc. v. Greenwood, 464 U.S. 548, 554, 104 S.Ct. 845, 78 L.Ed.2d 663 (1984). Accordingly, the voir dire process aims to weed out jurors who hold personal biases so strong that their ability to act as a neutral arbiter is compromised. Id. If a prospective juror's responses to voir dire questioning reveal a bias so strongly as to convince the judge that the juror cannot render impartial jury service, the judge should dismiss the juror for cause. United States v. Brodnicki, 516 F.3d 570, 574 (7th Cir. 2008).

That said, prospective jurors regularly come to voir dire carrying a host of preconceptions about what the law does and ...


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