A defendant has a right to a jury trial in most misdemeanor trials and in all felony trials. Many times the case is won or lost in jury selection. A prosecutor told me the other day that he won the case in jury selection after the case was concluded. He realized his case was not rock solid and could have generated a lot of sympathy for the defendant. The important part of what he told me was that he thought about what kind of a juror he wanted before the case started. That means that he didn’t have a “one size fits all” formula of what kind of juror he wanted. Instead, he tailored his efforts to find jurors who fit the mind-set he wanted for that particular case..
Each side’s lawyer is thinking about what kind of juror will vote the way that lawyer is advocating. For example, in a prosecution of police officers the prosecutor might want people who had bad experiences with police officers in the past. The lawyer for the defendant (the police officer) may decide he wants people who have supported the police in the past and sympathize with the difficult and dangerous jobs the police have. For the trial lawyer, figuring out who will understand your case, sympathize with your cause, and vote for your side, is the essence of picking a “good” jury.
The lawyers who have experienced the process of picking a jury know that it is the most important part of the case. It’s not just exploring the attitudes about crime, law enforcement, family relationships to victims, people charged with crimes, or ability to follow the judge’s instructions; it’s about finding the juror who will listen to your side’s facts and argument and believe the “right” thing to do is vote for whatever side you, the lawyer, is advocating.