Selecting A Jury

While reading and learning about the serious case described in this book, I often thought about the task the jury had.  Any jury that deals with a murder case has an immense amount of responsibility and based off the fact that I have yet to be selected to be part of a jury, I was wondering how one is properly selected.  The following article does a great job explaining the process.  After 12 people are selected from the jury list, the judge in the case asks them if they have any personal experiences that may cause them to be biased about the case.  I was particularly interested in the voir dire, or interview process, that is conducted because I did not know it is often done by both of the lawyers.  The article explains how the lawyers have the option of dismissing jurors based off a cause, such as a certain relative or job that connects them to the case.  A peremptory challenge will allow a lawyer to dismiss a potential juror without any particular reason, but they are limited based on the case details and should not be biased based off of race or sex.  Overall, the jury process involves mainly lawyers and the judge agreeing on 12 people who could properly and seriously come to conclusion on a court case.

Selecting A Jury

Sociopath

“I spoke to someone who had been involved in the case on the defense side, a psychologist. She said that, in her view, Frediani has the personality of a sociopath: charismatic, impulsive, hedonistic, smart, manipulative, faithless in sexual relationships, and ultimately remorseless.” -Weinberg, pg 339

I thought it was interesting that, following a discussion in class regarding possible personality disorders Frediani may have had, the book closes by addressing this idea.
But I’m also intrigued by the fact that a psychologist had been involved in Frediani’s case and had never testified. It seems she was able to create a relatively strong profile of Frediani as a sociopath–her description fits Frediani very well. Although the jury isn’t supposed to let themselves be swayed by emotion, building on the suspect’s character seems to be a key part of both the prosecution’s and the defense’s arguments. If the prosecution could suggest to the jury that the suspect is a sociopath, I’m sure they’d think it much more likely that such a person could commit murder.
Of course, it looks like this psychologist was working with the defense, and Bartick certainly would not have wanted the jury thinking his client was a sociopath. We don’t even know if the psychologist in question shared her view with anyone apart from Weinberg.
It certainly makes me wonder about the role of psychology in the courts.

Sociopath

The Similarities of Law and Science

“They were still forbidden from discussing the case with each other or their families” (Weinberg 322).

During a case the jury is not allowed to talk to or discuss any of the legal proceedings in the case besides with the jurors themselves. This law or standard put in place is very similar to how patents and other laws that protect the ability from two different labs or research firms having the ability to talk about experiment and findings. In both cases the argument can stated that this stalls progress rather than improves upon it. In both cases the jury and the scientists can discuss and learn more about their findings rather than just having the opinions of their colleagues. It enhances both science and law as more people are aware and attentive to what is going on in the world and in turn solve the problem at hand. There must be some way that jurors and scientists are able to freely talk about their ideas and findings in order to progress both science and the law.

The Similarities of Law and Science

The Jury Selection Process

     Lawyers are faced with the critical task of choosing individuals to make up their jury. In civil cases, a jury can be made up of anywhere from six to twelve people, while most federal cases consist of a twelve-person jury. One of the main responsibilities that these lawyers are obligated to carry out not only involves gathering a group of 6-12, but finding the right group, made up of people who can be trusted to tell the truth at all times. As I have limited knowledge when it comes to lawyers and jurors, I looked to Mental Floss to better my understanding of how the selection process works, and I learned that many different components are taken into consideration — some even slightly surprising. The first factor listed as part of the selection process is relationships. Lawyers look to make sure that one’s relationships do not affect their opinions. For example, any linkage to someone in law enforcement (police officers, jailers, probation officers) can create too much of a bias. Going off of this, lawyers are also going to look at one’s previous experience with the law. Even if there is no direct relationship to the people listed above, bias can still exist about these people based upon personal experience. Unwanted experience with the law, for example, may impact a juror’s handling of the case. The ideal candidate is someone who is accepting, open-minded, and trusting of the law. Another way to pick out bias is to do a background check of the potential jurors on the internet, as it is helpful in revealing information about a juror that the juror themselves may not directly state.

     The following components of the selection process came as no surprise to me: body language, attitude, leadership skills, and religion. Little did I know that lawyers will even consider hair and clothing. These factors seem appropriate from the stakeholder of an employer conducting a job interview, but the fact that lawyers pay attention to them struck me as surprising. The website informed me that “open and receptive jurors will have hair that is casual and naturally flowing, rather than highly styled or gelled or plastered to the head.” Same for clothes; open and accepting jurors will dress casual. A rather superficial point to consider, but I suppose it makes sense in a courtroom setting.

The Jury Selection Process

Power of DNA

“…Now the whole world knows the power of DNA. The trouble is that in the courtroom, there’s always going to be some people saying one thing and some people saying another. The jury’s job is to look at the people and figure out who is lying. Now these molecules have made their job much easier, because they don’t have the capability to lie. – Weinberg, pg 263

It is not a secret that crimes are more easily solved when there is DNA evidence supporting the case. If no DNA is found, then the crime can become a much slower process. Nevertheless, even if DNA is found, the person’s whose DNA was found will still try to defend themselves (unless in the case that they give up). So, there will always two groups saying something different things. DNA cannot lie, it is there and it has an owner. People however can still get away with murder if there DNA is found. How is that so? There has been rare cases where the DNA is there, and we all know it doesn’t lie and people get away with it. Of course, the lawyer must have done a great job. However, if people’s words can win over DNA, how powerful is it actually? In my opinion it insanely powerful, but people should not be confident they will win a case if the DNA is found, because the jury can still be convinced with the other team’s words.

 

Power of DNA

Questioning Trial Protocol

There have been many posts in the question forum pertaining to the courts decision to restrict the jury from learning about Helena’s death while the trial was going on, and I thought that I would address both sides of the argument of whether or not the Jury had the right of knowing. If you can picture yourself as one of the jurors, how would you react towards Frediani knowing that the woman he is on trial for sexually assaulting has just been found murdered? I think if the jurors found out about Helena’s death, then any of their existing impressions upon Frediani may have been more explicit. Naturally you would feel bad hearing about such a crime, and when the man potentially responsible for a similar crime is on defense in front of you, your emotions may take over. On the other hand, if the defense and prosecution must share all evidence with each other, the judge, and the jury, why shouldn’t the jury be informed about the victim’s murder if all other parties are aware?

https://www.wicourts.gov/services/juror/docs/deliberate.pdf

Not too relevant to my post in particular, but here are the Wisconsin state guidelines for jury deliberations. It highlights how jurors are supposed to dissect evidence and think about the different pieces of evidence involved in the case. Also, it discusses how the importance of evidence is arrived at, and how jurors “judge” how strong certain parts of the prosecution and defense arguments are. It’s important to note how juries are formed from everyday citizens in our country and are expected to learn how to judge law in a certain period of time, nonetheless determine a person’s fate.

Questioning Trial Protocol

The Risk of Bias

I found it very interesting and somewhat confusing that the whole court trial was conducted as if Helena were alive. They talked about her as if she were still living. I was wondering if this had to do with the jury and making sure that there was no bias present to sway their opinion. I decided to do some research on the risk of bias and found this article… http://www.ncsc.org/~/media/Files/PDF/Topics/Gender%20and%20Racial%20Fairness/IB_Strategies_033012.ashx

One risk factor that this article talked about that I thought related to Helena’s case was “certain emotional states”. The article explains that when a certain emotional state is provoked then it will produce “stereotypical judgements”. If the jury pitied Roger because he had just lost his wife then they may have been swayed to see his side. Or if the jury then believed that maybe Frediani had been involved in the death of Helena then their opinion would have also changed.

It was interesting to see how actual steps have been taken to reduce the risk of bias and how this was reflected in the novel.

The Risk of Bias

How impartial really are jury’s?

In today’s society with the use of technology in the the media and communication, it is rare to find someone who has not heard of popular news stories and cases. Courts try to ensure a jury is composed of unbiased, unknowing citizens who will approach the case with a fresh perspective. However, how accurate is it to say all members of the jury have not actually heard of a case, especially famous ones? Or to say everyone does not have some level of prejudice towards certain race, genders, etc.? I believe something must be changed in order to improve the court system and ensure suspects as well as victims are being given a truly unbiased ruling.

Jury.Box_

How impartial really are jury’s?

Sympathy from the Jury

“The court adjourned for its morning break, and when it reconvened, Andrea Goodhart was called to the stand. She should have been a sympathetic figure: intelligent, twenty-three years old and pregnant with twins to a man who was facing a prison sentence.” -Weinberg pg 96

Oddly enough, parts of this chapter reminded me of when I read The Apology, Plato’s account of Socrates’s trial, which ended with the famous philosopher being sentenced to death. Near the end of the trial, Socrates made it clear that he didn’t want to play by the court’s rules. Unlike many defendants, Socrates said that he wasn’t going to bring his family to court, showing off his children in the hope of winning some sympathy from the jury. He believed that the speech he gave in his defense should have been enough to convince the jury on its own.
This brings us to Frediani’s trial. Andrea Goodhart was a witness because she could help paint a clearer picture of Frediani as a person, as well as supporting his alibi for the day Helena was assaulted. But you can’t deny that her being a witness could serve another purpose. It tells the jury that Frediani has a pregnant girlfriend waiting for him, enough to maybe make some jurors hesitant to declare him guilty.
Comparing Frediani’s trial to that of Socrates has started me thinking about the ethics involved in these sorts of cases. Socrates wanted to win his case on evidence alone, but Frediani’s defense attorney clearly has no issue with trying to win some sympathy from the jury if it means his client goes free.

Sympathy from the Jury