Friday, November 6, 2009

What do we know about you?

I thought I'd go back in time, as far as the process of picking a jury, to the day (or two, or three) before trial.

I have mentioned before how jurors are picked, and how they are required to fill out certain information, which they can do online. Name, address, interests, etc. Everyone gets to fill out the same form, and both the prosecution and defense are given copies of the responses in the week before trial.

Given those forms, what do we look for?

As a prosecutor I look for someone who might be obviously biased against me - the girl whose email address started with "420friendly" indicated a chance of bias, for example. Or the person who lists his hobby as "anarchy" might not be inclined to abide by the laws of our fair state.

Likewise, defense lawyers might look at the section asking whether the panelist has relatives in law enforcement.

I also look at the section that says whether they have been a victim or witness in a criminal case. Likewise whether the person has been a defendant. I don't assume bias against the state in the latter case, as you might think. It's been my experience that someone who, for example, pled guilty to an offense, say DWI, believes somewhat in personal responsibility and isn't about to let someone off the hook automatically. This biggest danger with picking a jury is thinking you more about someone than you do, and this is why we try so hard to get panel members to talk during the voir dire process.

One of the last sections on the form, which I'm not sure I see the purpose of for criminal juries, asks whether the panelist or a family member has ever been seriously injured and required treatment. You get the usual car accident or "as a kid I fell of my bike" responses. But sometimes you get answers that make you go "Huh?"

Like a recent panel member, responding to the question about being injured replied:

"Stepped on a fish, injured my foot."

Sounds like the premise for an interesting short story, if you ask me...

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