Picking a Jury for a Criminal Defense Case
Jury selection is one of the most important parts of a trial. By no means one of the most dramatic, but it’s very important.
We focus on jury selection on identifying the people who’ve been called to jury duty who have some sort of bias which would prevent them from being fair to our client. It’s a hard thing to do because when people are sitting in the very formal courtroom--the judge up on the bench in the black robe and all these other people who have been called for jury duty--it’s an intimidating environment, and there’s a pressure people feel not to say anything that might sound out of place. They’re not thinking, “I want to tell the absolute truth.” They’re thinking, “I don’t want to look silly by saying something that a person shouldn’t say when he’s called for jury duty.”
So we have some techniques for getting people to be candid in jury selection, in those questioning sessions. One of them is to reward people who are candid. We want everyone in the room to see that someone who has the courage to be candid gets a reward for it rather than a slap on the hand.
I’m going to give you an example. Several times I’ve had trials where, during jury selection, one of the potential jurors has said to me, “Mr. Marshall, I think you’re trying to manipulate us.” Whoa! I’m under attack. My ethics are being called into question. My adrenaline is starting to flow. But no, I cannot, I cannot come to my defense.
Rather, I have to express gratitude for this attack I’ve just experienced. “Thank you, Ms. Jones,” I say, “we’ve asked everyone here to be candid, to tell us what they really think, and you’ve done that. You’ve given us all a great gift. Ladies and gentlemen, others who’ve been called for jury duty, you’ve heard what Ms. Jones says. Are there others among you who agree with her that what I’m doing must be some sort of lawyer’s trick?” And we get other people speaking candidly as well.
This is one of the techniques we use to discover biases and block biased people from sitting on your jury.