How I Handle Jury Selection In My Criminal Defense Cases
When I'm looking for prospective jurors in any criminal defense case, I'm looking to get the best possible juror that I can hope for. To that end, this is how at Bruno Law Offices we look for or just do the following 10 things:
1) Career: Does a juror work in any kind authoritarian-style job that might make them inclined to identify with various levels of government? Examples might include government bureaucrats, military personnel, and law enforcement. I try to avoid counselors, social workers, and teachers in sex offense cases, given how their very professionals train them to trust people who claim they are victims.
2) Prior Victims: Whether or not a juror has been the victim themselves of a crime can be a powerful factor.
3) Using Open-Ended Questions: It's crucial to get a juror talking, and open-ended questions work better than anything they can just answer yes or not to. For instance, a good question example might be asking Mr. Smith "How do you personally feel about when false rape allegations are made?" The part about how he personally feels makes him think before talking. A bad example would be asking Mr. Smith "Do think that false rape allegations ever happen?" That's a yay or nay question, and it doesn't demonstrate much about what he truly thinks. The more you get a juror talking, the more they are likely to reveal genuine opinions, and potentially bias.
4) Watch Their Body Language: Witnesses lie sometimes. Jurors do too. If I get any negative body language, either towards me or my client, I strike those jurors.
5) Gut Instinct: Choosing a jury is sometimes more art than science. It takes many attorneys years of trial work to get adept at jury selection, and even after that, some just don't get it right.
6) By Authentic: Attorneys, including me, have to use our own individuality to speak authentically to jurors. Trying to be someone that we're not just doesn't work. Jurors pick up on any phony pretenses. Those lawyers lose credibility, as do their clients. Personally, I like using popular movies to make points when I'm talking with the jury. I'm not a student of classic literature, so don't expect Shakespeare from me.
7) Brutal Honesty: If I have a weak spot in my case, I admit it openly during jury selection. I talk to jurors about how they feel. They'll eventually spot case weaknesses as it is, so an honest attorney presenting it in advance gains credibility and even some trust. That helps defendants out if the jury needs to be swayed on facts or issues that are truly contended.
8) Let The Jury Know About The Defense: It's crucial to form a defense in front of jurors as quickly as possible so we can start chipping away at a notion most people have. Even though the system says innocent until proven guilty, most people assume defendants are guilty, otherwise, they wouldn't have been charged or put on trial. Reasonable doubt has to be sowed in right away. For instance, I might ask Mr. Smith for what motives someone might make false allegations. Mr. Smith might answer anger. I would respond in agreement, and then come with examples of potential evidence or examples where someone angry might make false allegations against my client. I never want to go too far, so I don't always use my client in the immediate examples, but sometimes I try various ways to put the juror in my client's shoes for the day.
9) My Own Body Language: From the very minute a juror walks into the court, I need to look in charge, calm, and relaxed. It's impossible to do this totally, but as much as I can, I want the juror to think of the courtroom as my room, as my territory, where I will defend my client to the bitter end. I can never let the judge or prosecution look in control
10) Create An Ethos A Verdict Of Not Guilty: I want to reason with the jury and explain to them that nobody wants to see guilty individuals go free, but there is a higher moral duty, and that's releasing someone wrongfully accused.
As much as I can do or look for these 10 things, the more helpful I am to my clients when I'm defending them in a criminal court case.
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