Articles Tagged with jury selection

What is more terrifying than being charged with a crime that could land you behind bars for an extensive period of time? Going to trial means that a judge and up to a dozen strangers hold your future in their hands. How will they judge you? How will their life experiences play into their view of the case against you? These are critical questions—questions that are often studied by jury consultants. 

Who are Jury Consultants?

People with backgrounds in communication, law, social sciences, and linguistics may choose to enter the world of jury consulting. These individuals hold degrees ranging from bachelor’s to Juris Doctor. Their job is to focus on a range of issues related to jury selection. Consultants can play a key role in guiding research, detecting suitable prospective jurors, preparing witnesses for the stand, and responding to the unavoidable changes that occur throughout any major criminal trial.

They Conduct Research

Often, a consultant spends a chunk of their time on research. They may run mock trials, conduct online research related to potential jurors, and consult with clients to develop themes and examine potential issues with evidence.

The Help With Jury Selection

Many consultants spend substantial time in the courtroom and contribute to the process of jury selection. Prior to jury selection, or Voir Dire, consultants may guide attorneys on ways to make a positive first impression on potential jurors. They may even assist in developing questions that help to determine which jurors might be most receptive to their case.

They Help Prepare Witnesses for the Stand

Many consultants’ chief job is assisting in preparing witnesses. This is especially helpful because the average person has never seen the inside of a courtroom, let alone been expected to testify and be cross-examined. In addition to preparing witnesses for the expectations and procedures in court, consultants might assist with things like what to wear, how to present themselves, and how to communicate effectively. 

The Monitor

Throughout the trial, consultants often continue to monitor witnesses.  Which ones lack credibility? Who is not very likable?  These things can influence the approach and course of the defense team.

Are Jury Consultants Necessary?

Naturally, there is a legal team in place to take care of all of this. Even so, some clients may wish to have a jury consultant available to assist. Over time consultants have been involved in a number of high-profile cases, including the trials of O.J. Simpson, Scott Peterson, Bill Cosby, and Kyle Rittenhouse. And in the current criminal proceedings against Donald Trump, a well-known jury consultant has been employed. Continue reading

In the ongoing saga of the Malheur wildlife refuge occupation in Oregon, defense lawyers for Ammon Bundy and his crew are generally concerned that the jury will not be impartial. Prior to this, they have also accused federal judge Jennifer Navarro in Nevada of being biased and have tried to disqualify her from overseeing the case.  

Andrew Kohlmetz, an attorney who represents defendant Jason Patrick, one of the refuge’s occupiers, had requested a change of venue for the September 2016 trial and asked a federal judge Wednesday to approve funding for an analysis of the media attention the case received and, possibly, a survey of community attitudes. The two requests would total almost $130,000. Kohlmetz states that the media attention this case has garnered may have biased potential jury members.

U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown in Oregon seemed inclined to request the funding request until a thorough jury selection process is done to provide more information. She does not believe that jury members from Portland will be too “liberal.”  It is reported she would like a jury comprised of residents from all over Oregon to represent diverse mindsets.

California Juries and the Jury Selection Process

In our criminal justice system, being judged by a ‘jury’ of our “peers” is amongst one of the most heralded constitutional rights. Juries are mentioned in the fifth, sixth, and seventh amendments in our Constitution. The theory was that an impartial jury would lead to the most just results in every case.

Who is Eligible?

In the U.S., any citizen over the age of 18 is eligible to serve on a jury. However, they must understand and speak English. They must live in the Court’s jurisdiction with a valid government issued ID, but cannot be on active military duty. Juries are randomly selected from various lists including voter registries. An individual cannot be summoned more than once a year.

In California, trial juries are generally made up of 12 jurors. But in civil trials and in criminal cases involving a misdemeanor, there can be fewer than 12 jurors if both sides agree to it.

Rooting out Bias

An important part of jury selection involves asking the court to dismiss certain candidates. After a potential juror is asked a series of screening questions, the attorney can request to dismiss him/ or her “for cause,” meaning he or she expressed some bias. These requests are unlimited.  Alternatively, an attorney can also exercises a “peremptory challenge,” to a candidate meaning he or she does not have to state a reason for striking the person. There are only 6-20 requests allowed.

Lawyers are not allowed to veto prospective jurors based on their race, religion, or ethnicity. If they are suspected of doing so, the opposing party will likely file what is known as a “Wheeler motion,” meaning the entire jury will be dismissed and a new panel will be ordered. Continue reading

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