Jury Selection Process
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Jury selection is a critical part of the trial process
A lot of planning and effort goes into pre-trial preparation, and the jury selection process doesn’t seem to get the planning time and thorough consideration that it deserves.
A client’s right to a jury of his or her peers is guaranteed by The Constitution, making it a sacred part of American democracy, and the members of that jury are going to have a life-changing impact once they deliver their verdict.
So, attorneys are tasked with the heavy burden of choosing the most appropriate people for the job – without having a full range of information regarding who these people are and if they are suitable for the task at hand. This is particularly difficult for two reasons:
- The group of prospects often wants to be anywhere but there and are often misrepresenting their true selves to avoid being part of the trial process.
- The attorney is pressured to make a huge decision that will affect a client’s fate with very little information to go on, thanks to random selection, reluctant prospects, and limited data.
When selecting juries, lawyers and judges use a process known as voir dire which is Latin for “to speak the truth.” The judge and both attorneys ask questions to determine the competency and suitability of prospective jurors.
The questions can include general inquiries directed at the entire pool of prospects or specific questions asked of individuals to determine potential bias.
Based on the answers, the prosecution or defense can object to a juror. Each lawyer may request the dismissal of an unlimited number of potential jurors for cause. (For example, if they have prior knowledge of the case or are prejudiced against the case in some manner.)
Each lawyer also has a specific number of peremptory challenges that allow them to excuse a juror without stating a cause.
The information gathered during voir dire is vital to the potential outcome. However, asking the right questions, or even deciding what the right questions are, and organizing the answers in a way that helps select jury candidates can be a cumbersome and timely process.
In a world where marketing companies, social media platforms, and political campaigns routinely utilize personal information to learn more about their audiences, it seems that the legal industry is behind the times when it comes to using publicly available data to understand their jurors. However, the jury selection process is evolving into a more streamlined and effective experience thanks to similar data-based technology.
Data brokers buy information that private companies collect, often when customers hit the “I agree” button on a website, use a loyalty card, or agree to terms and conditions. They also mine social media activity for information based on likes, comments, follows, and engagement. This is all legal, and often creates a very comprehensive profile of the consumer.
Before a trial, both attorneys usually obtain the names of potential jurors on the day of jury selection. Cross-referencing those names with big data and predictive analytics sources can provide invaluable information about their suitability for the case.
Software that utilizes artificial intelligence, Natural Language Processing (NLP), and data mining from online activity can make jury selection a more precise pre-trial process. Jury Mapping and Voltaire are two options that are popular with attorneys who utilize such big data services.
A quick search of the Apple App Store reveals that there is also an assortment of apps designed for attorneys that don’t include the data component but can help with jury selection by organizing the information gathered during voir dire and rating each potential juror based on their answers.
Jury selection is important for many reasons, and any tool that enables an attorney to be more efficient and strategic is a worthy investment. To find out more technology tips and tricks for trial preparation, check out our blog.