Jury selection in ten minutes or less… Can it be done effectively?

20120105-012200.jpg
The time allowed for jury selection today is typically very brief compared to the time allotted years ago to attorneys. One article that I recently read by Attorney Karen Koehler provided an interesting and effective approach to dealing with limited time for questioning potential jurors. This is what she said to a panel of prospective jurors:

“Unlike the other attorneys, I am going to do the struck method. This is also called the Oprah or Phil Donahue method – I’d like you all to join in, don’t wait for me to single you out. We’d really like to hear from all of you. We left off with the defense attorney talking about general damages and how your job would be to determine compensation. I’d like to continue that discussion.”

“How many of you have been on a civil as opposed to a criminal trial (answer – none, all criminal). What was the burden of proof (answer — beyond a reasonable doubt). Does anyone know what the burden is in a civil case (answer — preponderance). Does anyone know what that means (no answer) – – More likely than not.

“This is an admitted liability case. But if it were not, then you would be asked to decide whether the defendant more likely than not hit the plaintiff’s car forcing it off the road (collective answer – okay). Instead this is a case about damages. You will be asked to decide what amount of money is fair to compensate plaintiff for his injuries (heads nod). Now are any of you starting to feel uncomfortable that this will be your job (heads nod, but I continue)? Now add this fact: not only will you decide damages like medical bills, but also you will decide what amount should be paid to compensate him for pain and permanent disability (pause). And add this fact: in making your decision you will not be told of the defendant’s financial condition (collective fidgeting). Now, is anyone so uncomfortable that they will not be able to fairly decide what amount of damages will fairly compensate the plaintiff?”

See page 34, http://karenkoehler.com/pdf/VoirDire.pdf. In response to this line of questioning more than half the jurors indicated that they could not be fair and impartial resulting in a mistrial. Creative approaches are needed to deal with the problem of limited time to question jurors about potential biases.

Because of limited time it is also important to be thoroughly familiar with your jurisdictions “jury rules” or case-law which establishes grounds for removing a juror for cause. The following is a list of grounds available in my state:

NOT A CITIZEN:………………………………………………………….. JR 5(A)

NOT AN ADULT:……………………………….………………………… JR 5(B)

NOT A COUNTY RESIDENT:…………………………….……………… JR 5(C)

NO FLUENCY IN ENGLISH:……………………………………….……….. JR 5(D) JR 17(A)(3)

DISABLED (MENTAL/PHYSICAL)……………………………….……….. JR 5(E) JR 17(A)(3)

UNDER GUARDIANSHIP……..…………………………..……………… JR 5(F)

NON-VOTER FELON……………………………………………………… JR 5(G)

LAWMAN (CRIM.)……..………………………………..…………………. JR 5(H)

RELIGIOUS BELIEFS…….…………………………………….………… JR 5 (ENDING)

PRIOR JURY SERVICE TO VERDICT IN LAST 365 DAYS……….… JR 17(A)(2)

OPINION ON CASE’S OUTCOME (CAN’T SET ASIDE)……………… JR 17(A)(4)

JUROR FOR SAME DISPUTE:…………………………………..……… JR 17(A)(5)

RELATED TO PARTY, ATTY. OR WITNESSES TO 5TH Degree JR 17(A)(6)

INTERESTED IN OUTCOME………………………………….………… JR 17(A)(7)

BIAS OR PREJUDICE FOR OR AGAINST A PARTY………………… JR 17(A)(8)

WITNESS TO CASE………………………………………………..……. JR 17(A)(9)

GRAND JUROR……………………………………………………..……. JR 17(B)(1)

CRIMINAL DEFENDANT (CURRENT) ………………………….….… JR 17(B)(2)

OPINION AS TO OUTCOME DUE TO WITNESS OR NEWS………. JR 17(B)(4)

INTERESTED IN SIMILAR SUIT BEGUN OR PLANNED…..………… JR17(E)

Today’s trial attorney must work faster and smarter than ever before. Unfortunately, judges are far too impatient and fail to recognize the value of jury voir dire. So be ready to use your time efficiently and wisely next time you “pick” a jury as time is of the essence.
MyFreeCopyright.com Registered & Protected

Advertisements

Posted on January 5, 2012, in Jury Selection, Trial Advocacy. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: