If you turn down a plea bargain and the prosecutor takes your case to trial, the small group of strangers who make up the jury will decide your fate after listening to the prosecutor and your criminal defense attorney battle it out in the courtroom.
So you’ll want a defense attorney who understands the art of jury selection. There are, as they say, tricks to the trade. While the official goal for both sides is to have a jury of impartial, unprejudiced people who will decide the case based only on the facts, evidence, and law, the real motivation for both prosecutors and defense attorneys is to have jurors who will ultimately be sympathetic to their side.
Getting the Edge in Jury Selection
The process of selecting individual jurors from the pool of 40 or 50 responsible citizens who answered the summons to jury duty is called voire dire (pronounced “vwahr deer”). In Florida law, most criminal trials have six jurors, except for death penalty cases, which have 12 jurors. So how do you pick them?
Jeffery T. Frederick, an expert in jury selection who calls jurors “decision-makers,” told an American Bar Association gathering that attorneys should do a “case analysis” for each prospective juror. This first stage of the process is used to eliminate “bad jurors,” those who show signs that they probably won’t see things your way for one reason or another. Some jurors can’t or won’t pretend to have an open mind about crime and punishment. Someone in the jury pool might have racist tendencies, or assume that anyone who’s been arrested must be guilty.
Frederick says the analysis involves three main components:
- Backgrounds. What backgrounds do jurors have (e.g., their occupations, educational background and training, socio-economic status, media viewing habits, and internet footprint and usage, among other background characteristics) that may affect their decisions in the case?
- Experiences. What experiences do jurors bring to the case (e.g., being a victim of a crime or involvement in prior lawsuits) that can affect how they view the case, evidence, witnesses, and parties?
- Opinions, beliefs, and values. These are the most important things to know about jurors because they will serve as the framework or filter through which the jurors will view the case.
So, if you’re a criminal defendant, you might want to strike the corrections officer who was recently mugged and votes the Law & Order ticket.
Research and Jury Selection
Because prospective jurors don’t always reveal their true feelings or opinions, Frederick recommends that the defense team do an in-depth internet and social media search on potential jurors. He says you can learn a lot about someone’s leanings by looking at their social media profiles. An important tip is to look for comments that a person makes about various news stories or social happenings. This is especially true in high-profile cases. If the alleged crime is all over the news, there’s a chance a prospective juror has commented on the case and revealed their leanings through emotional replies or comments.
When facing criminal charges, having an experienced and aggressive defense attorney who understands the art of jury selection is crucial. A skilled attorney will know how to effectively question potential jurors, identify biases, and select a jury that is most likely to be fair and impartial. They will also be adept at presenting a compelling case and making persuasive closing arguments to the jury.
The Orlando criminal defense attorneys at the Rivas Law firm know how to navigate the intricacies of jury selection and will use their knowledge and skill to provide you with the best possible defense. Call 407-644-2466 for a free consultation.