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

Prosecution Frustration

on page 230, this conversation takes place between Laura, Vic and Frediani: “Then how come we have your DNA?” “As far as DNA evidence, oh, I’m sure you’ve got some DNA evidence that probably points to me. Where you got it, how you got it, that’s a whole different matter. I’ve been in your custody for a long time.” “Why would we want to plant evidence?” Clearly these prosecutors are trying to get a confession out of him in a tactic that seems to be duress. Frediani remains calm and shows no evidence of fear or nervousness. He claims that the obtained DNA at the scene was not directly pointing to him for the crime. I feel that sometimes, if the prosecution is biased against the defendant, they may try and squeeze out a vague and false confession just to put him away. Is this type of aggression during interrogations fair.

Prosecution Frustration

Bias in Forensic Science

” I said something along the lines of, ‘This looks very promising, but for it to be used in court, we have to pass the Frye standard.’ I outlined the possible weaknesses, as I saw them; validation of the statistics, standards for matches, all the things that seemed pretty apparent to us. I thought I had given a nice talk about what would have to be done, when this woman from the Orange County crime lab stood up and said, ‘This kind of talk is dangerous. You shouldn’t be saying these kinds of things in public. Defense lawyers might find out about this and use it’ ” -Weinberg 192

I think that this attitude from forensic scientists says a lot. Firstly, I think that it shows the bias that at the time forensic scientists had towards defendants in general: they strove to prove them guilty. This statement from this woman shows that she and forensic scientists as a community were most likely to be on the side of the prosecution. This is even proven after Weinberg points out that the DNA testing was never done blind, and so forensic scientists were basically giving their own personal verdicts to the prosecution and courts.

This attitude is very alarming to me personally, because I consider myself a scientist also. It worries me to think that other scientists would inject their own opinions and biases into evidence and use science as a means to an end. For me, science and the discovery of new things should come from and be used as a way to make everyone’s lives easier and more efficient, not to meet one’s own personal agenda. It is also alarming to think that these labs and the courts were not monitoring the DNA testing, so that it would be blind. Weinberg even mentions that a scientist who studied the DNA of birds could’t even imagine doing her experiments unblinded. If birds are monitored so closely, why weren’t humans? Are they not more important and aren’t the implications more drastic? I feel as though this situation was almost a breach of ethics.

Bias in Forensic Science