Argued: September 9, 2019
Circuit Court for Baltimore City Case No. 115236022
Barbera, C.J. McDonald Watts Hotten Getty Booth Adkins, Sally
D. (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.
well-established that having the opportunity to participate
in jury service is both a right and a responsibility. As Md.
Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. (1974, 2013 Repl. Vol., 2016
Supp.) ("CJ") § 8-102(a) states, "[e]ach
adult citizen of this State has: (1) The opportunity for jury
service; and (2) When summoned for jury service, the duty to
serve." (Paragraph breaks omitted).
equally well-established that "[a] citizen may not be
excluded from jury service due to color,
disability, economic status, national
origin, race, religion, or sex." CJ § 8-102(b)
(emphasis added). Under the Americans with Disabilities Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 to 12213, generally, "no
qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of
such disability, be excluded from participation in . . . the
. . . activities of a public entity, or be subjected to
discrimination by any such entity." 42 U.S.C. §
12132. And, CJ § 8-103(b)(3) states in pertinent part:
"[S]ubject to the federal Americans with Disabilities
Act, an individual is not qualified for jury service if the
individual . . . [h]as a disability that, as documented by a
health care provider's certification, prevents the
individual from providing satisfactory jury service[.]"
"The [Maryland] Judiciary is committed to complying with
the Americans with Disabilities Act, including through
providing prospective jurors with an equal opportunity to
participate in jury service." Maryland Judiciary, Jury
Service: Notice: [Americans with Disabilities Act]
case involves the unfortunate circumstance that in a
courthouse in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City a
staircase with twenty-five steps was the only way to reach
the jury room that accompanied the courtroom that was used
for the trial in this case. We must decide whether the trial
court abused its discretion in excusing for cause four
prospective jurors who said that they would have difficulty
using or were unable to use stairs.
State, Respondent, charged Sergeant Danny Trotman,
Petitioner, a correctional officer of the Department of
Public Safety and Correctional Services, with second-degree
assault, conspiracy to commit second-degree assault, and
misconduct in office. At the start of trial, before the jury
panel entered the courtroom, four prospective jurors
disclosed to the Jury Commissioner's Office that they
would either have difficulty using or be unable to use
stairs, and the Jury Commissioner's Office gave that
information to the circuit court. The circuit court
separately called each of the four prospective jurors to the
bench. In each instance, first, the circuit court expressly
confirmed that the prospective juror was unable to use
stairs; then, the circuit court informed the prospective
juror that a staircase with twenty-five steps was the only
way to reach the jury room. Ultimately, the circuit court
excused the four prospective jurors for cause and directed
them to return to the jury assembly room to be available for
participation as jurors in another trial. Trotman's
counsel objected to the circuit court excusing the four
prospective jurors for cause and requested that the circuit
court conduct the trial in another courtroom. The circuit
court responded that no other courtroom was available, and
trial proceeded in the assigned courtroom. The jury found
Trotman guilty of two charges. Trotman appealed, and the
Court of Special Appeals affirmed. Trotman filed a petition
for a writ of certiorari, which this Court granted.
us, Trotman contends that the circuit court erred in excusing
for cause the four prospective jurors who indicated that they
were unable to use stairs. Trotman argues that the circuit
court failed to properly exercise its discretion to excuse
for cause the four prospective jurors at issue, as it failed
to consider potential options for accommodating them. The
State responds that, although prospective jurors with
disabilities cannot be excluded from jury service across the
board, on a case-by-case basis, a trial court may excuse a
prospective juror with a disability if the disability would
interfere with the performance of the prospective juror's
by the Americans with Disabilities Act, Maryland statutes
that govern jury service, and relevant case law, we hold that
a trial court may not summarily excuse for cause prospective
jurors with disabilities; instead, a trial court may excuse a
prospective juror for cause on a disability-related ground if
no reasonable accommodation is possible, and, at that
particular trial, the particular disability would prevent the
prospective juror from providing satisfactory jury service.
Applying our holding to this case's circumstances, we
conclude that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion
in excusing for cause the four prospective jurors who
indicated they would be unable to use the stairs to the jury
first day of trial, shortly after the jury panel entered the
courtroom, during a bench conference, the circuit court
[Juror 376 is unable to use stairs. So she can't
be on this jury because there are [twenty-five step]s to the
jury room. So I'm going to strike her for cause. . . .
[M]aybe I [had] better check with these [prospective jurors]
to make sure [that] they're telling the truth. . . .
[Juror] 408 also says [that s]he can't do stairs. . . .
I'm not going to strike. I'm going to talk to them. .
. . [Juror] 624 also says [that] she can't do stairs.
After the circuit court called roll, the following exchanges
THE COURT: May I see Juror  376 at the bench with
* * *
THE COURT: [Juror 376], I understand from the Jury
Commissioner's Office that you have difficulty doing
stairs, is that correct?
[JUROR 376]: Yes.
THE COURT: There are [twenty-five] steps to the jury room, so
I'm going to excuse you from serving on this jury because
you're unable to do the stairs. Okay?
[JUROR 376]: Okay.
THE COURT: So you should go back to the jury assembly room
[JUROR 376]: Okay. Now, in the future, I don't feel that
I -- I have the ability to -- I know that you don't want
to discriminate against me --
THE COURT: Correct.
[JUROR 376]: But I feel that[, ] in serving on the jury[, ]
you need to use your visual cues as well as, you know, the
evidence and everything --
THE COURT: Well, and you would let the [j]udge know that. Not
every person who's blind feels that way.
[JUROR 376]: Okay.
THE COURT: But you would just[ --] the [j]udge will always
ask you if there's anything else, if there's any
other reason why you shouldn't serve as [a] jur[or]. You
can tell them that. Okay?
[JUROR 376]: Okay. All right.
THE COURT: You can go back now to [the jury assembly room],
where you were at.
[JUROR 376]: Where I was at?
THE COURT: Where you were at.
[JUROR 376]: Thank you.
THE COURT: May I see Juror  408[, ] please?
THE COURT: [Juror 408], you told the Jury
[Commissioner's] Office that you were unable to do
[stair]s. There are [twenty-five] steps to the jury room in
this courtroom. Will you be able to do those?
[JUROR 408]: I have hard time going across the street.
THE COURT: No? Okay. Well, for that reason[ --] there are
courtrooms that are on the same level, but this is not one of
them. So I'm going to excuse you and ask you to go back
to the jury assembly room.
[JUROR 408]: Okay. All right. Thank you.
THE COURT: May I see Juror  624?
THE COURT: I understand that you're unable to do steps,
is that correct?
[JUROR 624]: Yes.
THE COURT: There's [twenty-five] steps to the jury room
in this courtroom, so are you telling me that you don't
think you can do [twenty-five] steps?
[JUROR 624]: No. Do you have[ --] is there an elevator? I can
THE COURT: We don't have an elevator. You [would] have to
walk up and down the steps. Up and down the steps.
[JUROR 624]: No. No.
THE COURT: So I'm going to excuse you from serving on