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Will You Be Seated on a Jury?
August 21, 2014 9:38 AM   Subscribe

If you've recently been called for jury duty, you may have been asked some rather personal questions. "In a recently concluded federal racketeering trial in Brooklyn, potential jurors were asked what public figures they admired the most and the least. For a political corruption trial, they were asked to list their three favorite movies and what the bumper stickers on their cars said." The New York Times, with the help of a jury consultant, created this quiz to see if you would potentially be seated on a jury.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (140 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was put on the very farthest to the right slider in the defendant's favor. Which...surprised me.
posted by threeants at 9:43 AM on August 21, 2014 [27 favorites]


This is a neat little toy. I got bounced for being perceived as too sympathetic to the defendant, whereas if they had asked directly about my political opinions I'm sure the conclusion would have been the opposite.
posted by zeusianfog at 9:43 AM on August 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


Fascinating how many of the questions seemed to be more about whether you'd be influential rather than whether you'd be pro-plaintiff or -defendant.

I hovered in the gray zone, leaning toward the defendant, until the last question, which shot me over to the deep red and "Off the hook."
posted by Etrigan at 9:44 AM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


You're off the hook.
The defense lawyer loves you, and is very excited to have – wait, the plaintiff lawyer just struck you. Please take your belongings and report to the main jury room, so you can wait to go through this all over again on another case.


I am extremely amused that as a person under 30 who enjoys crosswords, this assumes I will fall blindly into the clutches of the financial market. I'm surprised the NYT didn't send me another incessant reminder about renewing my subscription based on the profile created by this quiz alone.
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:46 AM on August 21, 2014 [33 favorites]


DAMMIT. *resigns self to a long tedious trial*
posted by kariebookish at 9:46 AM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


I ended up directly in the middle. Despite my view that you have to be at least slightly sociopathic to succeed in finance. My a priori thinking for a case where a woman is suing her broker is 65% or more in her favor. Doesn't mean that she's right. But my biases make me think that the balance of probability is in her favor.

When they do these questionnaires for criminal cases, do they ask your opinion of law enforcement? If they do, I'm never going to be placed on a criminal case.
posted by Hactar at 9:49 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ahahahahah. "Do-gooder, you have been spotted."
posted by corb at 9:49 AM on August 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


Also this is very helpful in explaining why I have never once been able to do jury duty. Working with teams and leading people make lawyers want to be sure of you! Fascinating.

I am totally taking this as a how-to of what not to show in order to get selected in future.
posted by corb at 9:51 AM on August 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


I had the exact same result as threeants (all the way to the right) and reaction (surprise). It is especially amusing to me because I worked in investment banking for over a decade and know all about how investment decisions are made, and frankly, would be (slightly) biased towards the plaintiff.

The crossword question was really interesting, though - that my love for crosswords or Sudoku or whatever would label me as someone more sympathetic to cold logic. Much as I hate the typecasting, it does make sense - even though it's wrong in my case.
posted by widdershins at 9:51 AM on August 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


Ooh, I hope I get asked a question like this some day, so I yell, "Objection! Relevance?"
posted by amarynth at 9:52 AM on August 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


I thought it was interesting that answering "yes" the "do you think investing is basically gambling" question is thought to put me in the defendant's favor. I do think investing is basically like gambling, in large part because of the malfeasance of people in the financial world pulling what amount to legalized con games.
posted by gauche at 9:52 AM on August 21, 2014 [21 favorites]


When they do these questionnaires for criminal cases, do they ask your opinion of law enforcement?

The last time I had to fill out a form for jury selection (PA), it was online and law enforcement/relationship with LEO/attitudes towards them made up a chunk of the form, though I think mainly in terms of yes/no questions. It also asked a lot of questions about relationships with legal studies and lawyers, though I think that's area-specific as juries in DC are sometimes 50% lawyers much to the consternation of the legals teams on both sides.
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:52 AM on August 21, 2014


Clearly there should be some contingency built into the jury selection process, but gaming it to the extent of asking people who they admire politically, which seems just a few steps away from straight-up asking them how they will decide the verdict, seems risky from an institutional perspective. Any formal process that gets gamed and rationalized like that, or in which a deliberative and justice-oriented, or at least ostensibly morally disinterested outcome is short-circuited by people heavily invested in one outcome versus another, eventually suffers drift from its original purpose and design, sometimes becoming decoupled completely in effect.
posted by clockzero at 9:52 AM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


"Sir, you have to stop giggling. This is not funny."

"It really is."

*giggles uncontrollably*

"Jury duty. Doodie."

*escorted out of the building*
posted by Fizz at 9:53 AM on August 21, 2014 [17 favorites]


Do you like to do crossword puzzles or other games that require your full concentration?

No

More likely to side with plaintiff
This is a question about your cognitive style. The plaintiff lawyer believes you may be more likely to respond to the plaintiff's more emotional theme of victimhood rather than looking deeply at the legal and financial details.


I'm kind of offended by this.
posted by bleep at 9:53 AM on August 21, 2014 [22 favorites]


"The trick is to say you're prejudiced against all races."
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:54 AM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


I ended up in the dead middle of the grey zone. Which is weird, because the only time I have been in a pool, I was dismissed immediately for being too pro-plaintiff.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:54 AM on August 21, 2014


Like Etrigan, I was hovering in the gray until that last question, when I too got tossed out of the jury pool for hitting the deep red.

I thought the crossword puzzle question was odd; sure, it was about 'cognitive style', but it only asked about games --- and I'm not much of a game player, but I am one heck of an intensive reader: guess that doesn't count for 'cognitive style' though.
posted by easily confused at 9:55 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I was put on the very farthest to the right slider in the defendant's favor. Which...surprised me.

Me too! I can picture the woman in court -- she reminds me a little of my mom. I worry about her.

But the plaintiff lawyer just struck me.
posted by mochapickle at 9:57 AM on August 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


Clearly there should be some contingency built into the jury selection process, but gaming it to the extent of asking people who they admire politically, which seems just a few steps away from straight-up asking them how they will decide the verdict, seems risky from an institutional perspective. Any formal process that gets gamed and rationalized like that, or in which a deliberative and justice-oriented, or at least ostensibly morally disinterested outcome is short-circuited by people heavily invested in one outcome versus another, eventually suffers drift from its original purpose and design, sometimes becoming decoupled completely in effect.

No, this is exactly how voire dire is supposed to work. It works because both sides get an equal chance to "game" the jury so that, in theory at least, the eventual jury does not favor either side (assuming lawyers of equal skill).

I'd say it's a good thing that both sides get a chance to try as hard as they can to advocate for their client.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:57 AM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Sort of relatedly, I got a weirdly intrusive healthcare survey from the DoJ about 10 days after my recent jury duty. It came with a $2 "gift". I found the entire thing so creepy that I threw everything away, including the 2 one dollar bills.
posted by elizardbits at 9:58 AM on August 21, 2014 [8 favorites]


When they do these questionnaires for criminal cases, do they ask your opinion of law enforcement? If they do, I'm never going to be placed on a criminal case.

The way voir dire worked the most recent time I went through it in DC (a couple months ago), they read out 15 or 20 yes or no questions like, "Do you think you would give either significantly more or less weight to the testimony of a police officer solely because of their job?", and you wrote down the ones you said yes to and then they had you come up and explain individually to the judge and the lawyers.

It was kind of a strange experience because I started out not empanelled, then ended up on the jury for one round, then back off of it after another round of cuts. I don't really have a good idea why or how I got picked or cut other than demographic assumptions being made by one side or the other.
posted by Copronymus at 9:59 AM on August 21, 2014


I thought it was interesting that answering "yes" the "do you think investing is basically gambling" question is thought to put me in the defendant's favor

I imagine the idea is that if you think investing is basically gambling then you would be inclined to accept an argument that says "hey, you gambled this money and you lost--suck it up." The question is probably not all that well formed--because it's not quite clear what is meant by being "like gambling." Presumably when you say that you think investing is "like gambling" you also think that most gambling outfits are actually rigged (because that is what you say you think investment is). So you actually need another, accompanying question which asks your opinion of gambling.
posted by yoink at 10:04 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I was part of the jury pool for this trial, in which a black man (in NH) shot and killed a police officer. My grandfather was a cop, my boyfriend at the time was black, and I am opposed to the death penalty.

I was shocked when I wasn't picked!
posted by ChuraChura at 10:05 AM on August 21, 2014 [9 favorites]


If the site works in such a way that it accurately represents the thought process behind jury selection, it's no wonder that so many high profile cases don't go the way I'd expect. If, in the case decided, it was the PLANTIFF's attorney that keeps me off the case described, there is obviously a cabal of defense attorneys who have permanently weighted jury selection metrics in their favor.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:13 AM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Rejected! Too pro-defendent. Aside from my "left wing causes", I was too likely to influence other jurors.

Good. I didn't want to do it, anyway.
posted by mondo dentro at 10:14 AM on August 21, 2014


In the sample case, my views lean toward the defendant but are acceptable to both sides. However, because I like to talk to people I become a risk to sway other jurors and thus "lean defendant" becomes "as far right as the scale can possibly go."
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:15 AM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


“I look at it much less scientifically,” said Susan Kellman, a longtime New York defense lawyer. Her favorite question is a simple listening-skills one: “Tell me one person who’s dead who we all know and respect.”

Most jurors say “my grandmother,” she said, and — unless that grandmother is Golda Meir — that tells her all she needs to know, she added.
Wow. The "we all" bit makes that an incredibly complicated question. Is the goal to see how thoughtfully jurors can model the world view of the other people in the room? I'd have to think long and hard about that one. And *most* people say, "my grandmother?" Yikes. Assuming most people don't get kicked from the jury pool, that's deeply troubling.

It's intriguing that there's no mention of specific statistical tools here. Is it all just intuition and pop-psychology, or are there people digging into the data in detail? (Whether providing jury selection with better tools is a good or a bad thing is, of course, another matter.)
posted by eotvos at 10:17 AM on August 21, 2014 [12 favorites]


I ended up in the blue side of things when I answered honestly. I think you could develop a real good voir dire simulator out of this little quiz, could be a fun mini game for attorneys.....maybe a sub game of the next Phoenix Wright.

As for IRL, I've never been selected, owing to either my being a law school graduate or just my political leanings in general. I still haven't had any opportunity to conduct jury selection, but I'd like to, one day.
posted by LeRoienJaune at 10:18 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Eotvos, I assume that most people do get kicked from the jury pool under that test. It's a listening-skills question, and I hope they're not actively seeking out jurors who don't pay attention to what they hear.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:19 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


> It was kind of a strange experience because I started out not empanelled, then ended up on the jury for one round, then back off of it after another round of cuts.

That probably means that you were not dismissed "for cause," so your explanations weren't enough for the parties and judge to agree that there was a good legal reason you shouldn't serve (obvious bias being a major one), but then one side used a peremptory strike on you because the lawyers thought you wouldn't be good for them for some reason (too smart, too dumb, too suspicious, insufficiently suspicious, whatever).
posted by Partial Law at 10:19 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I had a friend in grad school who said she got kicked out from any jury pool the minute she said she had a Ph.D. (I don't know if she specified it was in Computer Science).
posted by research monkey at 10:21 AM on August 21, 2014


No, this is exactly how voire dire is supposed to work. It works because both sides get an equal chance to "game" the jury so that, in theory at least, the eventual jury does not favor either side (assuming lawyers of equal skill).

Yeah, your point about how it's important for both sides to have equal opportunities to exercise their discrimination (and I use that in its literal rather than connotative sense) is well-taken. I wasn't saying, just to be clear about my intentions, that one or the other side should have that while the other shouldn't. I was just making the rather common-sensical and thus probably gratuitous point that there are potential problems with the tailoring of juries to cases, even with both sides having some control over the process, and I was implying that one shouldn't necessarily assume that voire dire will remain indefinitely faithful to justice merely because both sides will have input.

I'd say it's a good thing that both sides get a chance to try as hard as they can to advocate for their client.

Yeah, the promise of justice in an adversarial system is pretty much predicated on that being the case, isn't it? I certainly don't disagree that in such a system both sides have to work with equal vigor and under the same constraints. However I do think that there are some practices and processes that could be problematic even if both sides can engage in them.
posted by clockzero at 10:23 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


One of my friends who was studying law told me I would never be selected for jury duty because I knew about jury nullification.

Oddly, though, I've been a registered voter for 21 years and have never been called for jury duty.
posted by johnofjack at 10:24 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I had a friend in grad school who said she got kicked out from any jury pool the minute she said she had a Ph.D. (I don't know if she specified it was in Computer Science).

It happens to me. I don't have a PhD, but I get kicked out the instant they find out I've have a graduate education. Which is sad, because I'd like to be on a jury. We can't have people with analytic skills on a jury!
posted by winna at 10:29 AM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


One of my friends who was studying law told me I would never be selected for jury duty because I knew about jury nullification.

Although I know a lawyer who has been empaneled twice. Which is especially odd because in one case she basically 12-Angry-Menned the jury into a mistrial over something all the other jurors wanted to dismiss as a technicality (a.k.a. fundamental constitutional right).
posted by yoink at 10:30 AM on August 21, 2014 [10 favorites]


Come to that, I also know a retired university professor who (obviously) has a Ph.D., who talks to absolutely anybody within earshot and is extremely opinionated and who has been empaneled twice. I think they're often pretty desperate to make up the numbers on these juries. Some of the "oh, you won't get chosen if..." stuff I hear is clearly not accurate.
posted by yoink at 10:32 AM on August 21, 2014


I get called up pretty regularly, and I never get to serve. I don't try to get out of it, I want to serve. But, as soon as one side or the other hears that I have philosophy degrees, I'm usually out of there. Once I got as pretty far, in what I think was a major drug case, but they threw me out because I knew what jury nullification was. I got tossed from a medical-based case because I authored bioethics papers.

I show up for selection dressed like the attorneys dress. I always bring a book, and I sit and read quietly until my turn, I'm always honest in my responses, and in the 30 years I've been in the jury pool, I've never been on a jury.

Frankly, I hope I never need to go to trial for anything, because I have no idea how attorneys are picking "juries of your peers", if in Dallas, a white(ish), well educated, business owning, mom, local volunteering type cannot get on a jury even when she tries.
posted by dejah420 at 10:32 AM on August 21, 2014 [15 favorites]


I thought it was interesting that answering "yes" the "do you think investing is basically gambling" question is thought to put me in the defendant's favor. I do think investing is basically like gambling, in large part because of the malfeasance of people in the financial world pulling what amount to legalized con games.
posted by gauche at 12:52 PM on August 21 [3 favorites +] [!]


(I once worked in a large financial management company.) When a buyer places an order to buy or sell stocks they call it placing a bet. Many cases of this type have been tried, and it always ends up with The "Prudent Man" Rule; Would a prudent man have made the same investments with his own money? If so, then not guilty.
posted by Gungho at 10:33 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


My father used to always get dismissed for having a PhD. He got on the jury the time he said he worked in "engineering" instead of "physics" and didn't mention his educational level.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:34 AM on August 21, 2014


I wonder, has anyone ever attempted to challenge voir dire itself on the basis that it ensures that you will not be judged by your peers because they will be too sympathetic to you?
posted by corb at 10:39 AM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oddly, though, I've been a registered voter for 21 years and have never been called for jury duty.
posted by johnofjack at 1:24 PM on August 21


Don't count yourself out yet….Ive been a registered voter 22 years, and just this year got summoned. Im actually kinda excited about it, but I know ill get dumped :(
posted by ShawnString at 10:42 AM on August 21, 2014


I got bounced for being perceived as too sympathetic to the defendant, whereas if they had asked directly about my political opinions I'm sure the conclusion would have been the opposite.

Heh; my being white-collar and my saying that there are too many frivolous lawsuits made the defense attorney love me; and the defense lawyer wasn't spooked when I said that I didn't have friends who worked in finance.

So I guess it's too bad for him that my definition of "frivolous lawsuit" is more for things like Hobby Lobby, and that my "white collar" job is that of an office temp who is only temping because I was laid off from a finance job which I hated and swore I would never go back to that industry as a result. :-)

I get called up pretty regularly, and I never get to serve. I don't try to get out of it, I want to serve. But, as soon as one side or the other hears that I have philosophy degrees, I'm usually out of there. Once I got as pretty far, in what I think was a major drug case, but they threw me out because I knew what jury nullification was. I got tossed from a medical-based case because I authored bioethics papers.

Similar tale here; I want to serve, but I've never gotten to. An old theater colleague speculated that I probably never would serve "because you like to ask detailed questions." When I was confused why that would matter, he said "think about it - if you were a lawyer, would you want the juror to really want to analyze your argument to death and get into the fine detail?"

The best voir dire story I heard, though, is from a college friend who was a huge JFK conspiracy theory buff. At some point he was called to jury duty, and went into voir dire for one case; the lawyers were all seated facing away from the prospective jurors when he walked into the room, so it wasn't until the defense's turn for voir dire that he learned that the defense attorney was JFK Jr. He said he didn't remember a single thing John Jr. asked the prospects because he was too busy trying to suppress the urge to jump up and ask "wait, hang on a second, what do YOU think of the single-bullet theory?"

He was one of the very first prospects eliminated from the jury pool.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:43 AM on August 21, 2014 [10 favorites]


I got on a jury when I was in a PhD program. I had always heard that I'd be kicked off immediately for being too brainy or something, but they didn't seem to care about my brain at all. They asked me about my opinions on some medical things, about which I had fairly middle-of-the-road opinions, and put me on the jury. I got "the defendant's attorney would be worried about you, but you would still get on the jury" on this one, which I suspect is about right.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:43 AM on August 21, 2014


I actually wouldn't mind serving, but if I got caught up in a case which took more than a couple of days, I would face financial ruin, as I'm a sole proprietor with fussy clients who would not hang around to see if I wanted to do their work in x weeks.

That said, I'm confident I would be dismissed immediately. I was all the way defendant in this quiz and that seems about right.
posted by maxwelton at 10:44 AM on August 21, 2014


I got selected. That sweet old lady is getting a fat payday.
posted by oddman at 10:44 AM on August 21, 2014 [14 favorites]


What a ridiculous procedure. In England & Wales there is no such nonsense. The randomly selected 12 people *are* the jury, unless one of them actually knows someone involved in the case. Allowing the barristers to pick & choose who will sit on the jury seems counter to the interests of justice, not to say a massive waste of everybody's time.
posted by mr. strange at 10:47 AM on August 21, 2014 [21 favorites]


Is it a matter of public record why jurors (though obviously not specific names) are dismissed? Because I kind of feel like it should be.
posted by C'est la D.C. at 10:47 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


The attorneys don't have to say why they're striking a juror.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:50 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


> Some of the "oh, you won't get chosen if..." stuff I hear is clearly not accurate.

I wonder if some of this depends on locale. The friend I mentioned, her experiences being summoned for jury duty were in major metropolitan areas, where one supposes there would be a large pool of people for attorneys to cherry-pick from.
posted by research monkey at 10:53 AM on August 21, 2014


I always get kicked out of the jury pool the minute I open my mouth about my past anti-death penalty work, even though I've never been called for a murder trial.
posted by scody at 10:54 AM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


What a ridiculous procedure. In England & Wales there is no such nonsense.

There are advantages and disadvantages. It affords some measure of defense, for example, if you have a defendant who is likely to be regarded with prejudice by a random selection from the juror pool.
posted by yoink at 10:54 AM on August 21, 2014


I wonder if some of this depends on locale.

Perhaps, but the cases I refer to above all occurred in large metropolitan areas.
posted by yoink at 10:55 AM on August 21, 2014


What a ridiculous procedure. In England & Wales there is no such nonsense.

Well, that's fine, I guess, but you should definitely be able to try and weed out prejudices, if you can.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:56 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


in the leading case on prospective juror privacy, a heroic texas venirewoman named dianna brandborg refused to answer, inter alia, how much money she made. the state court held her in contempt, but she got it knocked out in federal court on a habeus corpus.

at a job interview, i would want to make the prospective employer happy, but i don't come to court to make anybody happy, and i will not answer a question like "what was the last book you read?" under any circumstances of duress. there is very little case law in this area, but i'd be happy to generate some.
posted by bruce at 11:02 AM on August 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yup, I likewise got on the jury as probably defendant-leaning, when I am actually plaintiff-leaning from the brief description given. Oops.

The one time I got called up, I never got as far as any of these sorts of questions. We got about four questions in and I was asked if anyone in my family had ever been the victim of a crime, I mentioned in passing that a sibling had been mugged a few years prior in an Italian laundromat, lost her laundry money but no serious harm done, and that was that.

I still wonder what case that was going to be, that someone stealing a few lire from a family member across the ocean and several years ago ruled me out. Pity, I would like to be part of this process at some point.
posted by Stacey at 11:04 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Thank you for appearing to serve on the jury in the matter of Metafilter LLC, vs. Google., Inc. We just have a few questions first:

You will recognize this as a plate of beans. Have you ever thought about that, though? REALLY thought about it?

You're researching something. Does your search query begin with site:ask.metafilter.com? Or does it not?

If you have a disagreement with someone at work, which of the following is your most likely course of action:

>> Take it to MeTa
>> Assign a team of 300 six-figure attorneys to the problem

Is there a cabal?

Would you describe this as an opaque, perhaps even arbitrary algorithm for displaying search results? Or does it look more like a portobello mushroom?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:06 AM on August 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


Allowing the barristers to pick & choose who will sit on the jury seems counter to the interests of justice, not to say a massive waste of everybody's time.

I think it was in one of Sandra Day O'Connors books that she made the point that while she believes juries to be important, that our current system in America for choosing jurors degrades the legal system because a preference is given to jurors who have no prior information about a case. In other words, lawyers purposely pick people who don't pay attention to the news. So right there you are eliminating a whole section of intelligent people (the kinds you would want on a jury) in favor of people who don't follow the world around them. Then lawyers eliminate people who might have knowledge of the area under litigation (no programmers on an internet related case, no accountants on fraud cases etc). Again, you are eliminating people who are knowledgable in favor of less knowledgeable people.

The end result is you end up with a jury of idiots.

I think her solution was to keep juries for important criminal cases, but to switch entirely to a panel of technocrat judges for things like patent law or financial crimes that really require detailed knowledge (and degrees) to understand.
posted by boubelium at 11:06 AM on August 21, 2014 [14 favorites]


I was very middle of the road. The one time I've been called up, I was dismissed. The questions (I think) that got me dismissed were about myself or family members being involved in a lawsuit. That was a yes answer. It wasn't a criminal case, so that's my suspicion.
posted by annsunny at 11:07 AM on August 21, 2014


I think it was in one of Sandra Day O'Connors books that she made the point that while she believes juries to be important, that our current system in America for choosing jurors degrades the legal system because a preference is given to jurors who have no prior information about a case.

Given the state of journalism in this country, having prior "information" about a case isn't that bad of a reason to get rid of people.
posted by Etrigan at 11:13 AM on August 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


As IRL, I'm booted. I want more quizzes!

My first voire dire I argued with the DA prosecuting the case as to what "beyond a reasonable doubt" meant because, philosophy undergrad at the time. I took pride in being his first strike.

My second voire dire I made it a few more rounds but was still a top five strike.

I'm thinking I'm orthogonal to the Platonic juror.
posted by Fezboy! at 11:15 AM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


They didn't ask about my Princess Leia costume. Strange.
posted by jetsetsc at 11:21 AM on August 21, 2014 [9 favorites]


I was yet another person who ended up all the way in the red despite being sympathetic to the sweet old lady who got robbed of her hard won nest egg by the greedy, heartless banker. I have to wonder if the test was set up to give people a result counter to what they expect as an indirect way of criticizing the tests.

I've spoken to lawyer friends and family about more educated people being more likely to be struck and it is definitely a factor. Some were even specifically taught that in law school. Having said that, it is certainly no guarantee, as there may be other potential jurors who are even less desirable for whatever reason.
posted by TedW at 11:23 AM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Given the state of journalism in this country, having prior "information" about a case isn't that bad of a reason to get rid of people.

Very true. If someone's news source is Infowars then I could see a lawyer having a problem. But ultimately, shouldn't the criteria not be if a person has prior knowledge, but if they are open to new information and have made no decision regarding the case? If I was called to a jury on a big local case and I said that I had read about it in my local paper, but had reached no conclusions as to guilt, then why is that grounds for dismissal?

I remember - brace yourselves - back during the OJ trial when they were trying to find jurors that hadn't heard of OJ or the murders. Who the fuck did not know about that? Or hear about it somewhere? It was inescapable, whether you liked it or not. Yet they found people who claimed to have never heard of OJ or the crime. Those cannot be the brightest bulbs.
posted by boubelium at 11:23 AM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Those of you who have gone decades without being summoned for jury service, come to DC! We get called every two years like clockwork!

I had a friend in grad school who said she got kicked out from any jury pool the minute she said she had a Ph.D. (I don't know if she specified it was in Computer Science).

I had an entertaining little moment about a year ago when the judge and attorneys were screening jurors for a civil case regarding a fatal truck accident. When I got called up to the bench, I cheerfully told them I was a transportation safety economist and both lawyers' eyes started flashing "NOPE NOPE NOOOOPE." They still kept me up there for a good five minutes before I was dismissed to ask about stuff like VSL calculation, all three of them scribbling notes. I've never felt so much like an expert.

I will say that the one time I did serve on a jury, it made me feel a lot better about our judicial system. The case was regarding a bias crime based on sexual orientation and I was selected despite very ostentatiously reading the local gay rag in the jury-selection box. (We voted to convict; it was a pretty open-and-shut, yes-he-was-threatening-his-neighbor situation.)
posted by psoas at 11:27 AM on August 21, 2014 [8 favorites]


I recently got not-chosen for what was projected to be a 6-week murder trial. Pretty sure I got not-chosen because I'm queer (both the victim and the alleged perpetrator were/are gay).

The thing I learned from the time I did get chosen (5-week murder trial) is you do not want to be an alternate. It was awful to be there for all of it but not the deliberations.
posted by rtha at 11:28 AM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


I get tossed immediately every single time. They ask if you've been a victim of a crime. Man - you'd be surprised how nervous people get when you tell an entire room full of strangers that you're a rape survivor.
posted by Sophie1 at 11:35 AM on August 21, 2014 [14 favorites]


and i will not answer a question like "what was the last book you read?" under any circumstances of duress

I would be horribly torn between refusing to answer, and answering with The Trial
posted by elizardbits at 11:36 AM on August 21, 2014 [14 favorites]


I have never been called for jury duty, but some of my coworkers have. They tend to get struck almost as soon as they ask about our profession. We work for a liability insurer.

The case the quiz gave me was a 60-year-old woman suing a bank for compensatory and punitive damages for mismanaging her investments. It booted me as being very far to the defendant's side. Probably woulda been been in the prosecutor's interest to ask a more direct question, like "how do you feel about banks?" because then the defense lawyer would struck me instead. Anyways, nowhere near enough info provided in the quiz to really trigger my biases and this sorta drives home how much of a crapshoot this selection process is.
posted by Hoopo at 11:39 AM on August 21, 2014


I also am instinctively on the plaintiffs side, and got kicked for being all the way in the red for defendant. But I could see, especially in the detail orientated question, where they might get that; a lot of financial laws have been written in such a way that your investment advisor can steal from you without breaking the law as written, so I could see myself put in a position where I feel what they did *should* be a crime but the law allows it.
posted by tavella at 11:45 AM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


The case the quiz gave me was a 60-year-old woman suing a bank for compensatory and punitive damages for mismanaging her investments.

I think it's the same for everyone, no?
posted by elizardbits at 11:51 AM on August 21, 2014


"Or does it look more like a portobello mushroom?"

I love it when old friends come by for a visit.
posted by oddman at 11:54 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


If I was called to a jury on a big local case and I said that I had read about it in my local paper, but had reached no conclusions as to guilt, then why is that grounds for dismissal?

I see what you're saying, but I'm not sure people can turn off unconscious bias like that. Think of the Ferguson case: passions are heated and you read all sorts of things about it. If the cop were on trial and you were on the jury you might want to keep an open mind but it seems likely stuff you've read is going to prime you to think one way or the other.

Man - you'd be surprised how nervous people get when you tell an entire room full of strangers that you're a rape survivor.

I think you're reading too much into this; it's not making people nervous, it's the idea that as a victim of a crime you might be biased against the defendant.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:54 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


If I was called to a jury on a big local case and I said that I had read about it in my local paper, but had reached no conclusions as to guilt, then why is that grounds for dismissal?

Things can be acceptable to be put in print, but not acceptable to be presented at a trial (illegally gathered evidence, for example).
posted by inigo2 at 11:56 AM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Complex civil cases usually have to be very weak to reach the jury. Insurers and corporate defendants settle cases with good facts. Plaintiffs need dumb and unsuccessful people on juries to win those cases, and even they get reversed on appeal a lot of the time. Smart successful liberals still tend to respect the law enough not to go with their hearts when the facts say otherwise.

Criminal cases are very different. You can reach the jury with all kinds of case strengths because of irrational defendants and conviction hungry DAs who simply refuse to dismiss charges when someone who thinks he's innocent won't take a plea. Also, conservatives will quickly sympathize with someone they decide the government is railroading and liberals can feel much better about nullifying when no one is bring forced to right a big check. Prosecutors like intellectuals because they understand that ANY doubt is not necessarily reasonable doubt, and also deep down simply have no empathetic connection to the typical criminal's mindset.
posted by MattD at 11:57 AM on August 21, 2014


Unlike in real life, I made the jury. I've been in a jury pool twice, and the first time one of the lawyers asked me if as an engineer I could handle things where things aren't cut and dry and not everything follows well defined rules, and if I was wittier than I am I would have responded that I'd be a very poor engineer if I couldn't.

The second time I didn't get asked anything specific other than boilerplate voir dire and general questions to everyone in the jury box, and I still was the first person kicked.

I assume it varies state to state, but from my experience it seems like California gives both sides an awful lot of dismissals without cause.
posted by ckape at 12:02 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also, I can't help but feel a little hurt after being dismissed by the people. I'm people, aren't I?
posted by ckape at 12:02 PM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


The first time I served on a jury, the selection was very quick and straightforward. We were asked a few straightforward questions about bias, and that's it. Of the 12 originally panelled, only 1 or 2 were struck. The judge later told us that he's hard-nosed about keeping jury selection short, since there's little evidence that asking pseudo-psychological questions to potential jurors has any meaningful impact on outcomes.

The next time I was called for jury duty, I was in the pool for a personal injury suit (plaintiff injured herself at defendant's house, and claimed negligence). After the lawyers had presented the basics of the case to us, one of the jury selection questions was, basically, "Does anyone here think that both the plaintiff and defendant are being petty, and this is a waste of time?"

That saved me from a really tedious afternoon.
posted by Banknote of the year at 12:03 PM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was recently called for a jury, and they asked nothing of anyone except about their history as jurors or crime victims, and whether any close friends or family were felons. I don't think they asked anything after I was dismissed, just because everyone else waiting to be called were also sent away about 2 minutes after I was. It was a murder trial, so I have no idea why the lawyers were so non-picky.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 12:03 PM on August 21, 2014


I'm a lawyer who was formerly in finance. Not only will I never sit on a jury, I will nevernevernevernevernevernevernevernevernevernevernever sit on this one.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:04 PM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


I ended up slightly to the right of center, toward the defendant. I really expected it to be further to the right.

and i will not answer a question like "what was the last book you read?" under any circumstances of duress

Yeah, someone could look at my Goodreads list and come to some iffy conclusions. It might be slightly less effective than asking what my astrological sign is.

Whatever, one of my greatest fears is to get called in on a sensational murder trial because I live in a red state that's pro-death penalty. Hopefully the prosecutor's side would ask the right questions to get me tossed quickly.
posted by fuse theorem at 12:05 PM on August 21, 2014


I've been called up for voir dires 4 times since I've been an adult, 2 NYC civil courts, 1 NYC criminal court and 1 federal grand jury. I expect to be called again within the year, now that I've switched boroughs and it's been about 3 years since the last call.

So far, I've gotten the "Thank you, but no, thank you" speech, all from the defense side. The criminal one is the one I remembered most clearly: I was 26, and the first person of whom the defense attorney on a felony robbery case asked questions of our panel. After answering about my background and whatnot, I think he thought I was a lock because I'm black, I said I was originally from a very poor neighborhood, and that I'm a volunteer for New York Cares. Then he asked me, "Can you look at this defendant and say honestly that you would be able to base any decision on the facts of the case alone?" The defendant, a young man maybe in his early 20s who had been sitting facing the judge with hunched shoulders and his back to us, turned around in his chair, looked me up and down, rolled his eyes at me, and sneered, like, a literal lip-curling sneer. The woman next to me gasped as automatically I said, "What's that for? I haven't done anything to you!" Ooops.

The attorney looked at his still-sneering client, sighed, then turned to the judge and said, "I'd like to excuse her, Your Honor." The judge and the bailiff were both trying to keep from guffawing as I was dismissed. The man was still making that face at me as I gathered up my things, so I gave him my best "WHAT, PUNK?!" look as I left. Later, after I'd calmed down, I was really upset about what had taken place in that courtroom for a long time, mainly at myself for reacting in such a way and, in essence, judging him on the spot.

I got dismissed on this quiz, also, by the way. I was too red on that little dial, which, given all my dismissals have been by the defense, is ironic.
posted by droplet at 12:06 PM on August 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


I never even get to the point where they ask you the questions. I always wind up sitting in the jury holding pen room all day reading a book.
posted by interplanetjanet at 12:06 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


But then, the Apple v Samsung patent case had a jury foreman who not only held engineering patents, he admitted (happily) to using his experience to guide the jury - in ways that looked to me at least to be verging on the bizarre. I don't think a mistrial was called, so I do wonder what it takes...
posted by Devonian at 12:08 PM on August 21, 2014


I've never been picked for a trial jury but last year I was #16 in the pool for my county's grand jury (23 jurors). I live in the county, wasn't a felon, and am over 18. There was no voir dire and the judge only gave one or 2 dismissals to people for hardship so I served 2 days a week for 8 weeks.

It was really eye opening.
posted by pointystick at 12:11 PM on August 21, 2014


Obviously banks are criminal cartels, but I don't really see how I could be expected to have any sympathy for the plaintiff, either. I mean, she has so much money that she can actually invest some of it. What kind of old-economy 1% nonsense is that?
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:14 PM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'd love to be on a jury sometime. It'd be an educational experience, and I think I'd be a good juror.

But I have a J.D., so I'm probably out. Alas.
posted by kafziel at 12:15 PM on August 21, 2014


I've been called for jury duty what, 6-7 times now? Something like that. Actually served on four juries, although one of them (a civil trial: lady was suing her insurance company) the judge declared a mistrial literally about 4 minutes in --- he shut down the lawyers and had the bailiff hustle us out of there damn fast; after sitting in the jury room for about an hour, we were sent home. Never did find out what the heck happened to cause it.

My favorite was my first time, a robbery where the defendant claimed Not Guilty. Guy went into a strip-mall donut shop in the middle of the day, pulled out a gun and told the clerks to hand over the money. Then he walked outside (staying in continuous view of the 15 people in the store), stood around for a minute or so, then went back in and demanded, again at gunpoint, that they call him a cab. Yeah, you can guess where that went: while he was standing outside again, the clerks called the cops, who picked the idiot up from where he was waiting: where he was still, as he had been all along, in constant, clear, full-daylight view of all those people inside..... We spent about half an hour in the jury room finding him guilty: it only took that long because we were trying to get straight faces and stop laughing at the fool.

So far at least I've never served on a grand jury, just piddly little stuff like that robbery; I don't know what I'd do if I got called for something like a murder case.
posted by easily confused at 12:24 PM on August 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


I always thought that my wife's having been a public defender was an auto-out for me, but still ended up on a 2nd degree murder jury.

Next time I was in the pool, I mentioned how I did not I heartily give more weight to officers statements than defendants. I was quickly booted. Other people who'd made up bullshit excuses to get off, but had been rejected, then started copying my line. To no avail...heh
posted by Windopaene at 12:25 PM on August 21, 2014


My former boss was an alternate on an asbestos civil case that went on for at least 3 months, which was super not-fun for her and for us.

My dad was a juror on a murder trial and refuses to serve on a jury ever again.

The best reason I heard for getting out of jury duty was from a grad student in astronomy who had time on the Keck telescope scheduled during the trial.
posted by mogget at 12:32 PM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


I've served on two juries in my life. And, according to the quiz, I'm a good candidate.
Odd, though, that the quiz didn't ask whether I kept a large amount of fissile material in a lead case under my basement floor.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:39 PM on August 21, 2014


I've been called a couple times for duty.

1st time I sat in the large pool room only to be dismissed when all the cases got their voir dire pools, pleaded out (*grumbles*), or got continuations (*grumbles louder*).

Last time, I got called, I was enplaned into the room and was potential juror 20/25 for a 6 member criminal felony (Felony DUI) jury. I sat quietly and listened as the prosecution and defense gave their pre-trial pitches about why we should find for their case. The only truly astonishing event was the one potential juror who started spouting off quite loudly about how the local urban district attorney was a horrible man for pushing so hard to get more convictions (and received national coverage for the amount of false convictions he's racked up). I looked over at astonishment as I could see the judge raising his gavel to level contempt of court charges against the jurror. The last number they called for the jury as number 19 so I'll never know if I was struck.
posted by Hasteur at 12:41 PM on August 21, 2014


Next time I was in the pool, I mentioned how I did not I heartily give more weight to officers statements than defendants. I was quickly booted. Other people who'd made up bullshit excuses to get off, but had been rejected, then started copying my line.

The JFK Jr. friend was on jury duty for a week (NYC used to be WAY more permissive about letting people excuse themselves from duty, so it used to be that you'd be on duty for a week), and got called into voir dire for about 6 cases; selected for none. The JFK Jr. thing wasn't even his favorite dismissal; he said that in one case, he was being quizzed by the lawyers, and one of them asked the question, "Do you think you could fairly make a decision about a law which you maybe didn't personally agree with?"

He blinked and said, "well....as long as it was a just law....."

"....Thank you, young man, you're excused."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:46 PM on August 21, 2014


I wonder what happens if I refuse to answer most of the questions on the grounds that I think this style of voir dire violates the philosophical and theological principles underlying the Anglo-American system of juries (and that "jury consultants" are pretty much the biggest scam going, and that lawyers doing voir dire are more superstitious than your average hockey player who won't change his socks and they all have secret beliefs about how to pick a good jury and basically none of these pan out) and then I argue about it with the judge for five solid minutes.

But anyway, I got tossed out for being white collar, the plaintiff thought it'd make me too sympathetic to the banker. MORE FOOL YOU, PLAINTIFF'S LAWYER AND YOUR SUPERSTITIOUS VOIR DIRE BELIEFS.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:48 PM on August 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


So, I figured I'd never be empaneled on a jury. The first time I got close it was a criminal trial, I think involving possession of a firearm and maybe drug possession, and for reasons I don't understand, neither of the attorneys asked much about prior legal experience. Finally a question came up about experience related to drug offenses, and I had to raise my hand, and I told them that I spent most of the first four years of my legal career practicing criminal law in which I defended or prosecuted a few dozen drug cases. It was a sort of record-scratch moment and I felt quite self-conscious for a moment when everyone in the entire courtroom turned to look at me. The defense exercised a peremptory challenge not long after.

I was called for jury duty a year later, again in a criminal trial, and it came out early on that I was a practicing litigator. So I patiently waited to be challenged, and I was, and the judge said, "Juror number six, thank you for your service, you are excused," so I hopped out of the jury box and was walking to the gallery and the defendant said in the loudest stage whisper I have heard, "No! We want HIM!" and I froze in mid-step and everyone again was turning and looking. A heated whispered conversation ensued between the defendant and his counsel and I looked at the judge and shrugged, and the judge said, "Counsel, he's been excused," so I kept walking, and then the defendant engaged in more antics and a moment later his counsel said, so sheepishly, "Your honor, the defense withdraws its challenge to juror number six."

I wound up being empaneled, and being the lead juror, and the person all the other jurors looked through to walk through the instructions, and I'm reasonably sure that my arguments were those that removed the last remaining doubts about guilt and the defendant was convicted of all charges.
posted by MoonOrb at 12:49 PM on August 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


theological principles underlying the Anglo-American system of juries

You've got the theology degree, what are you talking about here?
posted by leotrotsky at 12:50 PM on August 21, 2014


Having taken the quiz and having read the comments, I wonder if there is any evidence that these questions are actually predictive of anything. (I was another person identified as solidly for the defendant but almost certainly solidly for the plaintiff in real life.)

So ... does anyone know the literature on the predictive value of jury selection questions and/or whether there is extensive privately-held research (basically, trade secrets)?
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 12:52 PM on August 21, 2014


So, can you plead the 5th to the questions they ask? Because asking me about my obscene bumper sticker contents is asking me to admit to a felony in some states.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:54 PM on August 21, 2014


"on advice of council I decline to answer that question your honor"... sounds like an immediate exit...
posted by DreamerFi at 12:57 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


"So ... does anyone know the literature on the predictive value of jury selection questions and/or whether there is extensive privately-held research (basically, trade secrets)?"

YES. Neil Vidmar of Duke University Law School (Ph.D. in psych, not JD) and Shari Diamond of Northwestern have both published (together and separately) pretty extensively on the topic. They were the fortunate recipients of the "Arizona Jury Project," where a judge in Arizona, considering some jury reforms, suggested, "Hey, why don't we just record the juries (with their permission and the consent of all parties) in the courtroom and the deliberation room, send the videotapes out of state with penalties if they ever return, and identify the leading experts on jury research to run a project on this, to find out what ACTUALLY happens in the jury room?" Anyway, I worked as a research assistant on this and I'm one of the few dozen people who have seen the footage and it was FASCINATING.

Anyway, lawyers' jury selection voodoo is basically the bullshittiest bullshit going. It's the homeopathy of law.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:02 PM on August 21, 2014 [21 favorites]


The quiz was fun and I also surprisingly ended up very biased in favor of the defendant. In real life, both prosecutors and defense attorneys must love me, since I've been a juror on three trials that went to verdict* and was selected on a case where the defendant accepted a plea bargain after the jury had been empaneled**. California loves summoning you for jury duty!

* Murder (guilty), mail fraud (guilty), drunk driving (not guilty even though the defendant drove 50 feet into a church)

** I had vacation plane tickets and I'd neglected to postpone my service, so I showed up thinking I wouldn't get picked. I was the very first person called. Juror #1. I cleared voir dire and the judge said "too bad, so sad" about the plane tickets. I was pretty glad the defendant took the deal.

posted by kirkaracha at 1:04 PM on August 21, 2014


Wait, wait. I missed the point. Youall seem to think the objective is to get ON the jury. I'm playing a different game, where you avoid completely untrue (yet checkable) statements like "I play poker with the defendant every Tuesday nite" and still manage NOT to be picked for the jury.

Did I miss something in the instructions?
posted by RSaunders at 1:09 PM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Thanks!
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 1:09 PM on August 21, 2014


My responses to the NYT quiz put me further and further onto the defendant's side, until I was dismissed. I found it odd that having a family member involved in the finance industry would make me favorable to the defendant. Conversations with the family member and my experience managing my own small investments made me pre-disposed towards the plaintiff. How is that old lady supposed to keep track of financial news, laws and regulations, and the fine print of whatever the defendant had her sign over the years? I guess as others have said the quiz maybe goes to show the questions actually don't tell the attorneys much.
posted by needled at 1:31 PM on August 21, 2014


lawyers' jury selection voodoo is basically the bullshittiest bullshit going

From my point of view the purpose of the voir dire was threefold:

1. Weed out the really wacky jurors or anyone with some crazy, screaming bias or agenda. This is pretty easy to do, and it's important. You don't need jury selection skills to do this, you just need commonsense, this isn't about analyzing demographics or inferring things from occupations or anything else. Just no people who are crazypants.

2. Educate the jury about your theory of the case. This is your first chance to talk to the jury, so get up there and use the questioning as a way to start planting the seeds of your theory. "Who here knows someone who has been wrongly accused of a crime?" or "Have any jurors been in an auto accident because the other driver was distracted?" (or whatever). And then follow up questions from there, which start to lay out the bare bones of your argument.

3. Show off that you're a competent, thoughtful advocate who listens to what prospective jurors say, knows your way around a courtroom, and is well-prepared.

All the rest of the stuff seemed to me to be fodder for John Grisham novels or for scammers to make bucks off of insecure lawyers and their clients.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:51 PM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've been called once, and they asked the jury pool a bunch of open-ended questions and basically made us all have a big group conversation instead of each answering individual questions. I could tell based on the questions that the trial involved sexual assault and alcohol. The defendant's lawyer booted me because I lost my temper when the men in the jury pool started listing things like "body language" and "I paid for dinner" in response to a question about how do you know if someone has consented to sex. They used their last challenge on me, the person who took my spot became the 12th juror. Five years later I still get furious when I think about it.
posted by skycrashesdown at 1:55 PM on August 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


"You've got the theology degree, what are you talking about here?"

It's my theory (and I almost wrote my masters' thesis on this ... so I have pondered it a lot but not really put in the work to make a strong persuasive argument) that common law/civil law split between Britain and Europe is echoed in and inseparable from their differing theologies of truth, which actually pops up ALL THE TIME in Continental vs. Insular theology. Anglo-American thinkers seem to by-and-large believe that truth is an objective thing out there in the universe that any normal person operating in good faith and using their (God-given) reason can find that truth by careful consideration of the many perspectives presented. That's how we run juries; that's the underpinning argument for free speech and free religious practice given by John Milton in the Areopagitica (i.e., freedom in these matters is pleasing to God because it allows each man to find the truth, and truth will always be found). It's part of why the adversarial system is so revered. The flip side is, we have a public discourse that gives any moron with a webpage(/bullhorn/printing press/lots of quills) equal weight with an expert on the topic. On the Continent, there's a much greater deference to authority, and an idea that truth is found and understood by those with training and expertise who use their skills avoid the biases and emotional impulses of ordinary men and have special knowledge and training. The judge does a lot more to actively direct trials on the Continent, rather than being a referee between bickering lawyers, and most typically the facts of the matter are decided by a judge, not a jury, because what kind of moron thinks twelve randos are better at sussing out the truth of a complicated matter than an expertly trained judge? The early French theological treatises urging freedom of speech and press almost all focused on how such freedoms would stop the killing and make the country easier to govern; totally different, more practical starting place. In short, the Continental, Civil-Law view of the truth is that it is a matter for careful study and painstaking construction by learned experts; Insular, Common-Law thinkers view the truth a thing in the world discoverable by boisterous bickering between barristers. But anyway, I've thought a lot about this and I'm always alert for classic, influential works in Anglo-American or Continental European philosophy, theology, or law that highlight this difference in conceptions of truth, or for contemporary issues that shine a light on it.

So I object to voir dire that goes beyond a pretty simple "have you ever been involved in a similar sort of crime?" (because your emotional reaction might reasonably overwhelm you there) because it fails to respect the fundamental, underlying philosophy and theology of truth that underpins the American jury system, which is that it is discoverable by any reasonable person who exercises that reason in good faith. When they pick and choose based on "who will be more sympathetic to my client?" they're saying "I don't believe in the American system of law where we all fight to uncover the truth, I am a cynical bastard who constructions impressive arguments but I do not actually believe my fellow citizens to be capable of reason." (And, studies on juries tell me, I am basically right -- 12 randos and 12 hand-picked sympathetic jurors typically come to the same decision; jury selection is mostly nonsense.)

I have trouble imaging a world where I get seated on a jury anyway (due to my involvement in the Arizona Jury Project, as well as this being a very small county bar so I know like literally all the lawyers and judges), but sometimes I get a philosophical bee in my bonnet and while I understand all the justifications for why lawyers do voir dire this way, I think it's a giant waste of judicial time and taxpayer money, for a disproven bunch of nonsense, in a way that fundamentally disrespects the theory of truth that underlies American jurisprudence.

And I think that's one of the reasons Americans dislike and don't respect lawyers for their shenanigans and loophole-finding and tapdancing around the law ... we sort-of intuitively know that this game-playing with jury selection is "gaming the system" in a way that we don't want our system gamed. I think we as citizens sort-of have a sense that if what we claim about the legal process is true, game-playing jury selection is at best a waste of time and at worst immoral. People don't like lawyers who play games with justice. It's smarmy.

I might be talking entirely out of my ass, but it's something I like to ponder from time to time. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:58 PM on August 21, 2014 [36 favorites]


When I served on a jury last December the selection process had a bunch of questions that I was surprised were asked ('Where do you get your news?') although it was only because I didn't know much about jury selection. We were also asked about hobbies, and I mentioned writing fiction, and actually got a followup from defense about it: 'What kind of fiction do you write?'

Which, in retrospect, I realize means he was probably asking whether I write like gumshoe detective stories or True Crimes or The Diary of Jack The Ripper but instead I went on for like two minutes about how my fucking Choose Your Own Adventure By Committee system works and at the end he went '...okay, thanks.'

But I did get seated, so
posted by shakespeherian at 2:11 PM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was called for jury duty a year later, again in a criminal trial, and it came out early on that I was a practicing litigator.

This is crazy to me. In (I believe) all jurisdictions in Canada, any lawyer is, by statute, barred from serving on a jury. That seems much more reasonable to me.

Otoh, I think we have less peremptory challenges and all that, so maybe it all works out in the end.
posted by Lemurrhea at 2:19 PM on August 21, 2014


Perfect timing, I filled this out while in a jury selection pool.

Very relieved to learn that I would most likely be bounced.
posted by drfu at 2:23 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Look, if I have to serve on a jury, I need a break every 30 minutes so I can talk to Marlon Brando on the telephone in my head. It's really important he not over-fertilize his cactus garden. We've been over it like a thousand times!
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 2:23 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


i am off the hook. Ironic since both times I have made it to voir dire, i have been sat on the jury, despite the fact i live in the same jurisdiction where my extended family once filed suit against the local law enforcement for wrongful death.
posted by domino at 2:35 PM on August 21, 2014


In (I believe) all jurisdictions in Canada, any lawyer is, by statute, barred from serving on a jury.

My parents, who are both lawyers, have strong feelings about the jury pool in DC, which is a) very small and b) heavily weighted towards lawyers. They not only have served on juries, they've served on juries that are literally 50% lawyers. They generally only get excused if they've actually worked on cases similar to the one they're being considered for. On the other hand, they're citizens in a city and they should still have to deal with the same processes and responsibilities of being a citizen as everyone else-- lawyers who deal with SEC violations don't necessarily have any experience with traffic cases beyond what anyone else does.
posted by jetlagaddict at 2:42 PM on August 21, 2014


Also the one time I've served on a jury I managed to keep a guy from going to prison for like five years on bullshit charges

I wish people weren't so lulzy about getting out of jury duty. It's kinda important.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:43 PM on August 21, 2014 [21 favorites]


I figure, the more I'm willing to be on a jury, the more likely it is that someone like me will actually be on the jury if I ever have to go to court. It's a karma thing. It's being decent. So yeah, I'd like to be selected.
posted by mochapickle at 2:54 PM on August 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


I got called for jury duty last summer and I still feel weird about it. The situation seemed to be that the defendent, who just looked like a hateful little shit, had beat up his girlfriend, and I gathered that his defense was giong to be something like "she started it." And his high-dollar attorney was setting things up by asking questions like "do you think it is always wrong for a man to hit a woman?"

So that was kind of a problem from the get-go. They at one point asked everyone who'd had direct experience of domestic violence to raise their hands, and then made a point of asking everyone if they still thought they could be objective. I said, not direct but w.r.t. people I cared about, and basically fuck no I couldn't.

I still feel conflicted about it, like maybe I should have lied just so I could try to hang the guy. But of course that's wrong, my prejudgement had nothing to do with actual justice. But still...
posted by hap_hazard at 2:59 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I left this out of my earlier comment about my experience as a juror, but it was one of the most satisfying civic/patriotic experiences in my life, including military service. Every single person on that jury was incredibly engaged, deeply thoughtful, and showed such concern for the process in addition to compassion for both the accused and the victim. I was so proud to have been part of it.

It's kinda important.

I agree with this too and as someone who made my living for a while litigating, it frustrates me and saddens me when people don't want to participate. I mean, I get it--it's a serious sacrifice for some people and at least inconvenient for most, and that's putting aside those people who have little faith in our justice system. Of course it's most important for people to commit to thoughtful jury service when people's liberty is at stake, but I also think it's important on the civil litigation side too, so that we can have a system of justice that gives ordinary citizens a chance to participate (not that this mitigates the system's many ills, but I'd argue the system is better with this participation than without).
posted by MoonOrb at 3:03 PM on August 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


I went on for like two minutes about how my fucking Choose Your Own Adventure By Committee system works and at the end he went '...okay, thanks.'

Why didn't you confess to your teen worf fanfic.
posted by elizardbits at 3:05 PM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've been seated for every jury I was ever voire dired for. Every. Single. F*****g. One. I figured since I grew my hair long and got an earring they'd just throw me out on principle. Nope. Maybe next time I'll wear a kilt.
posted by lordrunningclam at 3:37 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


>"I'd say it's a good thing that both sides get a chance to try as hard as they can to advocate for their client."

This, in itself, is actually mission creep, because the ultimate goal is finding the truth. If a person is found guilty and then later incontrovertibly found innocent, then we shouldn't say "wow, that was a greatly skilled prosecutor for convicting an innocent man." In a perfect world, the quality of a prosecutor shouldn't be based on the number of cases they've won. It should be based on the number of cases that they got right.

Maybe you can't base that on the unknowable "truth," but I'm sure that there is a better fitness metric than "cases won."

As a society, we've decided that objective truth is impossible (and it often is) so we've created a system with checks and balances that has an iterative fitness function that is tweaked away from the true goal. That is dangerous business. In complex systems, a slightly tweaked fitness function can cause all kinds of problems.

I'm not convinced that a jury of milquetoast fence-sitters is a jury that I can trust. There was the study recently about how extra polite and inoffensive people are actually less ethical because they are more concerned with keeping up appearances.

There is a better way for our society to go forward. We could be attacking this problem from the opposite direction. Instead of rewarding* uncritical thinkers with extra influence in justice and political systems, we could be engendering critical thinking skills at every level of education and rewarding critical thinking at every level of every career type.

Instead of selecting potential jurors for lazy thinking and weak leadership, we could raise the bar and ensure that there are nine equally equipped strong, ethical, critical thinkers on the jury.

* I used the word "reward" sardonically, since most people don't want to serve on juries. That's its own problem, though. The truth is that juries have power to shape the future and any populist institution with power inspires strict control.
posted by Skwirl at 4:11 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


This, in itself, is actually mission creep, because the ultimate goal is finding the truth.

The role of the prosecution (the state) is (or at least should be) finding the truth. The role of the defense should absolutely be advocating for the client, regardless of the truth. Ernesto Miranda was guilty as hell of the rape for which he was convicted after confessing without knowing he had the right to counsel, but his defense went farther than simply finding the truth of whether he . Norma McCorvey broke the law, but her defense wasn't just about saying that she didn't.
posted by Etrigan at 4:22 PM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


I have never been called for jury duty and it's unlikely that I would ever be seated, but I've been a defendant in two trials and having decent people on my juries kept me from having to go to prison for something I didn't do.

Thanks for doing jury duty, everyone who's done it. It means a lot.
posted by bile and syntax at 4:50 PM on August 21, 2014 [8 favorites]


My criminal procedure professor in law school was a former prosecutor. He remarked that his preferred juror (in a criminal case) was a factory foreman / plant supervisor. Essentially, a blue collar guy who has worked his way up to a supervisory position. The theory being that such a person would have little tolerance for rule breakers and criminal types, while having an air of authority that would be persuasive to the other jurors. But at the same time, not so opinionated or close to law enforcement that he would be immediately eliminated from the jury pool.
posted by Mr Mister at 5:01 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oooh, for a while I lived in a state which asked what bumper stickers were on your car and I was miraculously never chosen (given that my stickers mark me as very liberal when I was in a very conservative area).

Last summer I was seated in the jury box for about 10 minutes before I (and the rest of my fellow jurors) all actually heard the defense attorney say, "She's a college professor!" and I was then immediately bounced. At least I was done before noon and have another 2 years before I have to go again!
posted by TwoStride at 5:15 PM on August 21, 2014


"I left this out of my earlier comment about my experience as a juror, but it was one of the most satisfying civic/patriotic experiences in my life, including military service. Every single person on that jury was incredibly engaged, deeply thoughtful, and showed such concern for the process in addition to compassion for both the accused and the victim. I was so proud to have been part of it."

This was basically our universal assessment of the jury videos we watched; they took it seriously and worked really hard at doing it right, and they did a good job. People dread it but people who actually serve mostly LOVE the experience. A lot of jurisdictions are finally working to take the bullshit out of it, like putting people "on call" for several days but you don't have to show up unless juries are actually being empanelled that day, and once you do your one day you're done, whether or not you get seated; or letting people select good dates online; and I think that helps.

"I agree with this too and as someone who made my living for a while litigating, it frustrates me and saddens me when people don't want to participate. "

My friends all know better than to bitch about jury duty around me, because they get a five-minute tirade on the importance of juries, and WOE BETIDE the person who says to me, "Hey, you're a lawyer, how do I get out of jury duty?" because they get 20 minutes on WHY THEY ARE TERRIBLE AMERICANS.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:32 PM on August 21, 2014 [10 favorites]


For real, like jury duty is the ONE THING required of you as a citizen and everyone is like 'nah that's boring for four hours, fuck that'
posted by shakespeherian at 5:39 PM on August 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


Before I actually encountered the jury selection process, I was enthusiastic about the prospect of being selected for a jury and being able to perform a civic duty. But then I did voire dire for the first time a few years ago and it was a very negative experience. It was a violent crime case and one of the first questions I got asked was whether I had ever been the victim of a crime. When I said I had been sexually assaulted at a party the previous year, the judge began to grill me. What happened? Where was I? Did I report it? Why not? Was I drunk? Am I sure I wasn't drunk? I wasn't drinking even a little bit? Seriously, why didn't I report it? People should really report these things. I definitely wasn't drinking?

I ended up shaking and close to tears before I was dismissed, sitting all alone in the jury box in a big courtroom being harangued to tell the room full of strangers scribbling notes about a traumatic experience in my life. The judge made me feel seriously terrible about myself for having gotten myself sexually assaulted and for failing to report it the way I should have. And I couldn't understand how this line of questioning could possibly be connected to the case or my fitness as a juror. I went home and spent the rest of the day curled into a ball in bed. I now absolutely dread the prospect of being called again, like I feel a little queasy just thinking about the likelihood of it happening again.
posted by ootandaboot at 5:40 PM on August 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


Well that and taxes.
posted by Carillon at 5:55 PM on August 21, 2014


"My criminal procedure professor in law school was a former prosecutor. He remarked that his preferred juror (in a criminal case) was a factory foreman / plant supervisor. Essentially, a blue collar guy who has worked his way up to a supervisory position. The theory being that such a person would have little tolerance for rule breakers and criminal types, while having an air of authority that would be persuasive to the other jurors. But at the same time, not so opinionated or close to law enforcement that he would be immediately eliminated from the jury pool.

You just described my father to a tee.

Although... he was pretty opinionated. But, yes a blue collar guy who rose to plant supervisor. He hated rule breakers with a passion. He did not automatically believe police officers, because he knew they were rule breakers, too, sometimes. He did have a subtle way of being seen as a leader by his peers in social settings.

I think he did in fact serve on a jury in a relatively serious criminal case. I seem to remember that his takeaway was that juries were scary because everyone else was simple-minded and ... wait for it ... unable to follow the rules!
posted by Slothrop at 6:28 PM on August 21, 2014


How do crosswords require your full attention? Tetris requires your full attention.

Also, I hope I get called for this jury, because the defense loves me, and I'm basically cutting the plaintiff a check as soon as I hear the case.
posted by aaronetc at 6:39 PM on August 21, 2014


> In England & Wales there is no such nonsense. The randomly selected 12 people *are* the jury

Trial by jury in Scotland is 15 random people, simple majority. Yeah, you can find guilty on an 8/7 split; hung juries are impossible. The North American system is stupid; it's no democracy where you can't be called for public service.

I really enjoyed my time on a high court panel, and am a bit narked that I've never been called here, nor am I likely to. How can justice be served with only gullible people as the jury?
posted by scruss at 6:54 PM on August 21, 2014


"The judge made me feel seriously terrible about myself for having gotten myself sexually assaulted and for failing to report it the way I should have. And I couldn't understand how this line of questioning could possibly be connected to the case or my fitness as a juror. I went home and spent the rest of the day curled into a ball in bed. I now absolutely dread the prospect of being called again, like I feel a little queasy just thinking about the likelihood of it happening again."

If you wanted to do so (only if you want to!), you can report this appalling and egregious behavior to your state's body that regulates judicial conduct. You can make reasonably anonymous complaints (since this isn't criminal misbehavior), in the hopes that this judge will get some retraining, or the authority will issue a memo about appropriate treatment of sexual assault survivors in voir dire, or that at least they will have a complaint on record if he ever does it again. If you did decide you wanted to register a complaint, memail me and I can help you find the right body to complain to. Sexual assault advocacy groups that work with the courts would also be interested in hearing about this; they are always working to improve the treatment of assault victims in courts.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:32 PM on August 21, 2014 [11 favorites]


I came out straight in the mushball middle, "you're gonna be on a jury!" Which is exactly what happens IRL--if I make it in the box, I'm on the trial. Been on two juries so far (out of six callings) and was the foreman last time to boot.

easily confused, you were on six juries?! SIX!?! Damn.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:08 PM on August 21, 2014


everyone is like 'nah that's boring for four hours, fuck that'

The main issue is how many lies I would have to tell in order to be allowed to serve. Definitely more lies than I can keep track of at once.
posted by elizardbits at 9:58 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've been picked for jury duty but never made it as far as the courthouse because I'm never actually needed. That has happened 3-4 times in the past 10 years.

I would love to be on a jury because I have a brother in prison for life for a crime he didn't commit. A jury that was well-educated and informed would never have let that happen. But in a county where police officers lie under oath, (and later contradict themselves!) where evidence is allowed without following even the most basic evidentiary rules, where public defenders refuse to meet with their client even once, and judges are BFFs with the DA...yeah. There is no justice.

I got thrown out on the last question. Too influential.
posted by guster4lovers at 10:23 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've been a registered voter for nearly 30 years, but I only got a jury notice once, 3-4 years ago, and for that one my group didn't even get to the 'call this number to see if you need to come in' level. I was glad of it in that case since it was very awkwardly placed for my Christmas flight, but I do feel that it would be a good civic task. Kind of how I haven't yet switched over to vote by mail because I enjoy the civic ritual of lining up with my fellow citizens, chatting with the poll workers, etc. I'm probably finally going to do it because my current commute makes it tricky to get back in time to vote, but I'll miss it.
posted by tavella at 10:41 AM on August 22, 2014


This has been fascinating to read. And yes, at least in civil trials, voir dire is just as much about influencing the jury pool and spinning the facts as it is about choosing the jury.

Anyway, I worked as a research assistant on this and I'm one of the few dozen people who have seen the footage and it was FASCINATING.

Oh man I would love to watch this.
posted by sallybrown at 10:55 AM on August 22, 2014


So how do they test for racist and gender bias? This detailed questioning seems like a lot of effort, but the result is unlikely to eliminate bias.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:28 PM on August 22, 2014


People dread it but people who actually serve mostly LOVE the experience. A lot of jurisdictions are finally working to take the bullshit out of it, like putting people "on call" for several days but you don't have to show up unless juries are actually being empanelled that day, and once you do your one day you're done, whether or not you get seated; or letting people select good dates online; and I think that helps.

Getting rid of the bullshit is a great move because I think people partly dread jury because their first (and often only) exposure to the system is the most frustrating and confusing parts of it, like the waiting with no idea when anything will happen, being ordered to sit here and stand there with no clear purpose to most of it, and being selected or rejected based on nothing you can tell. A certain amount of that is probably unavoidable even in an ideal system, but it can be a pretty alienating experience. Both times I've been called, I went in excited for the chance to serve and left kind of annoyed by the process, and I think I would definitely find jury service rewarding if I ever actually got on a panel.
posted by Copronymus at 3:06 PM on August 22, 2014


The quiz pegged me as neither side having any objections to me, but likely to be influential with the jury, so if one side found any reason to doubt me, I'd be booted. Otherwise I'm on the jury.

I've been called once, I served. It was a really petty criminal offense where some drunk underage girls verbally harassed one's ex-boyfriend, and the ex-girlfriend physically assaulted him. In putting the defendant into the car, the cop slammed her head against the top of the door, and she kicked out. So they had her on an assault on the ex, and a felony assault on the cop. The rest of the (older) jury wanted to put her 19 year old ass in jail for both. Because she kicked a cop. I wasn't having the felony. If someone slammed my head into a metal object, on purpose (yeah, the way he told it, gleefully, I think it was on purpose), and my hands weren't free, hell yes, I'd kick out at them. They fought with me about it, but I refused, point blank. I don't know if I finally convinced them that it was an automatic reaction on her part, or if they didn't want to sit there for another three days, but they caved. We convicted her on harassing and assaulting her boyfriend only.

So I guess the quiz got me right for the most part. Seemed like a silly thing, though. I'm not high-brow because I do crossword puzzles, or work white collar. I'm not pro-defendant because I believe that investment is too much like gambling. I would consider the broker, who is supposed to keep himself educated on his profession and trends, to be liable to a greater extent. At least on the little information they gave us.
posted by Meep! Eek! at 2:35 PM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


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