I could write a 100,000 word essay on how to pick a jury, but frankly it is a subject that attracts the likes of junk scientists, prognosticators, and snake oil salesmen. Certainly there are techniques that could be helpful in choosing a jury, but for the most part (in my opinion) the process of selecting a jury is complex, complicated, and never consistent.
Each time you arrive in the courthouse for jury selection, you are bound to surprised by the diversity of the jury pool. Staten Island, in particular, has changed demographically over the past 10 to 15 years. The Island is represented by many cultures due to the exodus of new immigrants from more densely populated boroughs (e.g., Queens, Brooklyn). When selecting a jury, you need to have cultural sensitivity and respect. If a person has a language issue, be patient. If your questions during voir dire are not responded to in a way that you expect, ask it again and understand that some potential jurors may not have a perfect understanding of the process.
Try to emphasize the importance of jury trials in resolving our differences. Point out that the Right to Jury is written in our 240 year old Constitution. Ask your potential jurors (if they are originally from another country) how disputes are resolved. Be sure to explain the importance of your client’s right to sue – and that it is the only way to find solutions to our problems and disputes.
All jurors should be reminded of the Constitutional Right to Jury Trials. All jurors should be advised that they, too, would have the same right to sue – and that their role is very important to preserving that right. You need to put themselves in the shoes of your client and let them know that if they were litigants, that they would hope that whoever is on Jury Duty would remain fair and impartial.
I am not afraid of addressing controversial issues and raising these issues during Jury Selection. Whether it is race, politics, or tort reform, I generally prefer to sort out those issues with potential jurors.
Those who admit to being “ant-lawsuit” need to ultimately admit that it would be hard to be fair and impartial in your case. Don’t let them slide and admit that they are for tort reform, yet can be fair and impartial in your case. Get them to admit that it might be best if they were jurors on a criminal case based on their opinions. Do not vilify them, rather humanize them and be sensitive to their opinions. In fact, acknowledge that we all have opinions and we do not all think alike.
I use an example that is helpful for jurors to understand the importance impartiality. I tell them that I represent a player from the New York Yankees. In the fictitious lawsuit, I tell them that my the outcome of my client’s case will determine who will be named the winner of the World Series…against the New York Mets. I then suggest to them that if they were Mets fans, do they think that they could be fair and impartial in this case. Most of them agree that they could not be fair jurors in the example that I cited.
If my client is of a race that is different from the pool of jurors, I ask them to what extent do they have contact with members of the same race as my client. Do they have family members of that race? Do they have friends and co-workers of that race? I try to bring them to the conclusion that although they may not be racists, they may bear subtle prejudices that might impair of affect how they decide my client’s case. This is controversial, but it might be a valuable way of discovering people’s values. You may want to consider using a peremptory challenge on such jurors.