SJC Rules The Blind Can Serve On Massachusetts Juries


BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — In a ruling released Thursday, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said they saw no issue with a blind individual being seated in an assault and battery case.

Lawrence Heywood, the defendant in the case, appealed his conviction, claiming it was tainted because a blind man served on the jury at his trial and could not have viewed the evidence presented.

Heywood argued that his rights were violated because the blind juror wasn't able to view the physical evidence shown during the trial, in which Heywood was accused of hitting someone so hard they needed titanium plates to put their cheekbone back together.

"We discern no error with respect to the seating of the blind juror," the SJC wrote in their decision, deciding to uphold Heywood's conviction.

According to the SJC, during jury selection, the juror "indicated to the judge that, although he was blind, his disability would not be an impediment to serving as a juror, and that he could access the evidence if a fellow juror described photographic evidence to him." During the trial, the juror had to have medical evidence described to him.

Kim Charlson, Executive Director of the Perkins Library at the Perkins School for the Blind, told WBZ NewsRadio's Karyn Regal she agrees with the court's decision.

Charlson, who served as a jury forewoman herself, said she did not see blindness as an impediment in a trial.

"I don't necessarily have to see something to understand and fully comprehend what it is, and I can do that through description from other jurors, hopefully the other witnesses and the attorneys," she said. "People who are blind really can make a contribution to society. They can fulfill their civic duty and responsibilities, and they can make a difference in the jury process just like any other citizen."

WBZ NewsRadio's Karyn Regal (@Karynregal) reports

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