justice

During the outbreak of the pandemic, the Supreme Court of Illinois ordered all Illinois courts “to establish and periodically update, as necessary, temporary procedures to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on the court system, while continuing to provide access to justice”. In line with these directions, courts issued orders imposing a mask requirement in all courthouse locations.

A defendant sentenced to five years in prison filed an appeal against the judgment of conviction alleging that he was denied his constitutional right to a fair trial by an impartial jury when the trial court required that all jurors wear masks during voir dire (i.e., the process used by the parties to select a fair and impartial jury).

By judgment of 29 November 2022, the Appellate Court of Illinois rejected the appeal stating that there was no evidence that the wearing of a face mask “thwarted the purpose of voir dire examination—namely, the selection of a jury free from bias or prejudice”. Being able to see jurors’ noses and mouths as not essential for assessing credibility, the Court said.

Reference: People v. Smart, Appellate Court of Illinois, 29 November 2022.

Full text of the decision available at ilcourtsaudio.blob.core.windows.net en