Eleventh Circuit Orders New Trial after District Court Fails to Ask Jurors About Anti-Gay Biases

In a %per curiam% opinion, the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new trial in a gay Key West man’s excessive force lawsuit against that city’s police department and certain police officers.  Berthiaume v. Smith, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 19403, 2017 WL 4422465 (11th Cir. Oct. 5, 2017).  The plaintiff in the suit, Raymond Berthiaume, contended on appeal that he was denied a fair trial by an impartial jury because the district court failed to ask jurors his proposed voir dire question, which was “’[d]o you harbor any biases or prejudices against persons who are gay or homosexual?”  The appellate court agreed with Berthiaume and ruled that, on the particular facts of the case, the district court abused its discretion by refusing to put this question to potential jurors.

Berthiaume brought suit against Lieutenant Smith of the Key West police department, as well as the department itself, after Lieutenant Smith arrested Berthiaume on October 26/27 at the 2013 Fantasy Fest parade and charged him with domestic battery.

For the full story, access the November 2017 issue of LGBT Law Notes.