How does a lawyer conduct jury selection? What is he looking for? Why did he kick me off the jury panel? How could he think I wouldn’t be fair? Jury selection is sometimes called an inexact science at best. At worst, it’s like throwing darts at a target blindfolded and hoping for the best.
As a seasoned criminal defense lawyer, I tend to think that jury selection is incredibly important. However, rather than an inexact science, I tend to think I am fighting against the notion that people will automatically side with the District Attorney just because my client scares the crap out of them.
When preparing for trial I think about what kind of a juror would be good to hear this kind of case. In a DUI for example, I want the following: licensed drivers, drivers who will have dinner a glass of wine and then drive themselves home, someone who doesn’t have a religious issue with alcohol, and someone with an open mind. The open mind is last because everyone will say he has an open mind (unless he is simply doing everything possible to get out of jury service).
Of course, if one says her mind is made up, immediately the judge goes after her and questions her on how unfair that is, until no juror following the first one who tries that tactic would dare to go down the road of “my mind is made up”.
But, in a gang case, who is in favor of gangs? Not even gang members are in favor of gangs (unless it’s someone from their own gang). So to find a fair juror in these kinds of cases is very difficult. Someone who isn’t shocked easily and who isn’t easily afraid is a good juror in these cases.
When picking a juror for a gang case it is very important to find someone who isn’t worried about guns, intimidation, or who thinks that all gang members are guilty of something. That is, some prospective jurors think a gang member is guilty because if he didn’t do this crime he surely did others, so he is guilty regardless of the evidence. Others think that no matter how weak the case is against the gang member, if he isn’t guilty of this crime, he will be guilty of something in the future so might as well get it over with now.
Finding a fair, open minded person, no matter what the race, gender, or other persuasion is the quest for the defense attorney. A juror who will truly follow the presumption of innocence is the golden juror. That juror is a very rare commodity in the gang case. However, never underestimate the power of the juror who takes on your case as his own. Find that juror in jury selection and you, the lawyer, have truly found the holy grail because your arguments will be his arguments and will lead to his not guilty verdict.