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In the Valley of the Blind - A Primer on Jury Selection in a Criminal Case

NCJ Number
Law and Contemporary Problems Volume: 43 Issue: 4 Dated: (Autumn 1980) Pages: 116-136
H P Fahringer
Date Published
21 pages
This paper uses findings from social science, law, and psychology to provide defense counsel with a systematic approach to jury selection in criminal cases.
The approach to identifying prejudices and selecting jurors uses a juror profile, which the lawyer should develop for each trial. Factors to be considered in such profiles include the client's personality, the prosecution's witnesses, and the nature of the charge. For example, the defendant's feelings about minorities represented in the jury should be considered. Jurors who may identify with an important prosecution witness should be avoided. Religious persons must be avoided in obscenity prosecutions. A list of all the favorable and unfavorable features sought in a juror should also be made and prioritized, since knowing the type of juror sought will improve the chances of selecting that type of juror. Suggestions on how to conduct voir dire are given. For example, a survey firm can be hired to produce a jury profile to be used to guide the trial lawyer through the jury selection in a controversial case. If the client cannot afford such a survey, counsel can conduct an investigation based on jurors' ballots. This will reveal the age, sex, and nationality of prospective jurors. A checklist of recommended areas of interogation is presented. Questioning should cover such areas as education, experience with the justice system, hobbies, and legal principles such as presumption of innocence. However, since the use of notes should be avoided, a helpful memory technique, the link system, is suggested. Observation of the jurors' behavior is also suggested. For example, counsel should note which jurors are friendly and which stay by themselves. The juror's face should be observed for a reaction to a controversial question. During the final choice, the 'alpha factor' (leadership qualities) should be considered. A juror with a high alpha factor, of whom defense counsel is unsure, should be excused because of the risk that such a person may exercise a disproportionate authority in jury deliberations. Footnotes containing references are included.


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