Vincent Bugliosi on Jury Selection Prejudice

Here, Bugliosi describes how lawyers typically think jury selection is a very important process instead of the crap shoot that he sees it as. I think this insight also applies to job interviews:

Voir dire, the questioning of the prospective jurors, was about to begin.

In my opinion, the greatly restricted scope of permissible questions on voir dire reduces jury selection to at best one-third art and skill and two-thirds guesswork. Many experienced trial lawyers concede that after a lengthy and vigorous voir dire, the twelve jurors they end up with are frequently no better than the twelve originally seated in the box by lot. Why? Because the juror one side wants is nearly always one the other side does not. As each side excuses jurors who look good for the opposition, very little progress is normally made.

Nonetheless, a surprising number of lawyers consider voir dire the most important part of a trial. Obviously, it would be if a lawyer had the uncanny insight and ability to select jurors who would end up voting for his cause, regardless of the evidence. But since no lawyer has ever been found who can do this, or even come close, the reality, in my opinion, is that voir dire is far from being the most important part of the trial. Lawyers have a significant amount of control over every other area of the trial, and assiduous preparation pays enormous dividends. During voir dire, a lawyer operates mostly by fallible instinct. If even after years and years of marriage many husbands and wives don’t really know each other, how can there be any reliable way of evaluating prospective jurors by means of a few rounds of questions and answers? Because of this, voir dire has always been the one part of a trial I’ve never felt confident about.

Trial lawyers joke that prosecutors typically look for conservative, crew-cut Nordic types during voir dire, while defense attorneys look for long-haired fellows in well-worn cords and tweeds.

More specifically, it’s generally supposed that artists, sculptors, writers, musicians, and others in the arts, including the liberal arts, tend to be more sympathetic toward defendants in criminal trials. The same assumption is applied to people in the “helping professions,” like nurses and social workers, as well as to Italians, Hispanics, Jews, and blacks. Single people who are not deeply rooted in the community, factory workers, and anyone who prefers reading a book to watching television are all considered defense-oriented personalities. On the other hand, defense attorneys obviously challenge anyone who works in law enforcement, and are similarly wary of secretaries, who, according to a national jury survey, and the most prosecution-oriented of all occupational groups. The only inference I’ve been able to draw from this statistic is that secretaries have to go along with the boss, and in the courtroom, symbolically, the boss is the government. Engineers, scientists, accountants, and bookkeepers are generally considered pro-prosecution jurors as well, perhaps because they are trained to be objective and reach conclusions based solely on facts, not emotions.

But all of this vague conjecture ignores the reality that, not uncommonly, the juror in the characteristically defense-oriented profession turns out to be a staunch member of the John Birch Society, and the juror in the prosecution-oriented profession belongs to the ACLU.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s