The Art of Jury Selection
A large part of winning a personal injury trial is selecting the right jury. Poor jury selection can end up with a losing case, regardless of how good the witnesses or facts may be. Jurors are a panel of our peers, but they are human beings, and go into the jury selection process with their own sets of preconceived notions and beliefs.
When Jurors Can be Challenged
Challenges to jurors by attorneys for both sides can be based on a juror’s background, but can also be based on something the juror says in the course of jury selection.
For example, if a victim was injured when a speeding police car hit and injured him, and a potential juror is married to a police officer, the victim may not want that juror on the jury panel. Certainly, that belief may be based on the preconceived notion that the juror will automatically side with police officers, but that is an opinion that a party is allowed to have.
During questioning, jurors with seemingly innocuous backgrounds may say things that alert one of the parties that the juror may not be a good fit for the case. General questions should be asked of jurors by the parties. While exact questions about the case that will be presented cannot be asked, questions about a potential juror’s opinions about lawsuits, certain professions, or general biases can be asked.
Other biases may exist as well. For example, a juror may have some interest in the case’s outcome.
If a juror has something in his or her background or says something that raises concern with a party, the juror can be stricken from the jury panel. This is called being stricken “for cause.” Judges will rarely second guess or be involved with an attorney’s decision to strike a juror for cause.
Attorneys have the opinion of striking a juror for no cause at all. It may be based on a hunch, or a “look” that a juror gives, or the attorney’s (or jury selection expert’s) own feeling or hunch. These are called peremptory challenges. Each party gets three such challenges.
Peremptory challenges cannot be used to strike jurors based on race or gender. To ensure this does not happen, when a juror is stricken with a peremptory challenge, the other side is allowed to ask why the juror was stricken. The striking party must give a reason that is not race or gender based.
Jury Selection is an Art
Selecting jurors is an imprecise science. In many cases, jurors who parties think will react one way, react a different way. In our example above, we may assume that the juror married to the police officer will be biased towards officers. However, that juror may have a strained relationship with his or her spouse, or may simply dislike his or her spouse’s employer.
This is why juror selection experts–usually trained in psychology or body language–are used in higher value cases.
Tampa car accident attorneys at the Pawlowski//Mastrilli Law Group can answer your questions and help you obtain damages for injuries sustained in a car accident. Reach out to us today for help.