Selecting A Jury

In a felony criminal trial, the defense and the prosecution have nine peremptory challenges to cull a potential juror.

What is most important is that the juror be receptive. I am looking for a juror that will listen to the witnesses and my closing argument with an open mind. Some jurors are unreceptive. It may be that they do not like me. Or that they do not like attorneys. More often it has nothing to do with me. People have lives to live and jury service is inconvenient.

Jury Assembly RommEagerness to serve on a jury raises a red flag. Who really wants to sit in judgment of their fellow man? Or woman? The attitude I look for is a grudging acceptance of a civic duty.

Next I want a fair foot race. Nobody gets a head start. I look out for people who believe that because someone was charged with a crime they are probably guilty. One question I often ask potential jurors is if they are more likely to believe a police officer than a man or woman off the street. The law is that all witnesses are entitled to that presumption of credibility and that one class of people are not more credible than any other class.

This ties in with law enforcement bias. I usually ask potential jurors if they have family or close friends in law enforcement. Having a loved one in law enforcement does not disqualify the potential juror but it does require a deeper probe.

I always ask have you ever applied for a job in law enforcement. The fear is that the juror will satisfy that ambition on the client’s jury and vote to convict.

Once, I had a felon in possession case in federal court. A young man admitted that he had applied for a job as a policeman. I used a peremptory challenge and eliminated him. The judge recessed for lunch break and the young man accosted me in the parking lot. He asked me why he was eliminated.  I hemmed and hawed. He then asked me why my client was in possession of a firearm. I told him that’s why he was eliminated, that is he had assumed, without hearing any proof, that my client possessed a firearm.

I look for leadership qualities in potential jurors. A hung jury is a blocked shot. If the impaneled jury cannot reach a consensus and unanimously vote to convict then my client cannot be convicted.  A leader-less jury panel is usually favorable to the client. This is not a hard and fast rule. A leader who seems receptive to my questioning may be desirable.

Of course the client always his the last word. It is his trial after all.