This’ll teach her.

I was called for jury duty today. Strangely, none of my 100-or-so fellows in the jury assembly room seemed nearly as excited about the prospect of serving as I felt. When I made it to the courtroom (the 180th District Court, Hon. Debbie Mantooth Stricklin presiding) and saw that Caroline “Wonder Woman” Dozier, one of my favorite prosecutors, was prosecuting the case, I thought I might actually have a chance of making it onto the jury — Caroline might, I thought, have the guts to allow me on the jury. (It was a case within the broad class that I think could merit prison time.)

I took some notes. One potential juror said that he couldn’t honor the accused’s right not to testify because he had been on a jury before, had acquitted, and then had learned that the accused had been in other trouble. He said that he’d talked to several other people with similar experiences. Operation Poison the Jury Pool is succeeding.

Neither the State nor the defense got a lot of information from the jury panel. The State focused on educating the jurors about the law, while the defense focused on developing challenges for cause. Nobody asked any open-ended questions, and nobody bounced one person’s answer off another.

30 minutes per side is not nearly enough time for lawyers to get meaningful information about 60 jurors. A judge who limits the lawyers to 30 minutes per side is begging to have the lawyers pick the jury either based on prejudices and stereotypes, or on random selection.

I didn’t get to serve on the jury. Caroline burned a peremptory challenge on me, and explained later that she didn’t want to appear in my blog. God forbid.

0 responses to “This’ll teach her.”

  1. Very funny. You might make it on to a criminal jury in NY, but I doubt you ever will in TX. And while I think you’d make an excellent juror, I can understand the preemptory challenge. The prosecutor wants a jury she can lead, and leading defense attorneys is akin to herding cats.

  2. I was in your pool, Mark. It would have been interesting to have served on a jury with you, but I also didn’t make the cut.

  3. Finally Mark… a post where I can legitimately ask the question what do you guys perceive as wrong with random jury selection?

    By way of background – over here in Blighty we have random jury selection – when the jurors name is read out they can be challenged (usually if they know someone involved), but when I say challenged I do not mean questioned in any way, and there are rare cases where logic leads the judge to ask the question of the jury panel, and those who answer a certain way are rejected (for example in football violence, do you support team x)

    As such your system of jury selection is intriguing to me – Perhaps ours is to you – I agree with Mark that 30 minutes can’t be enough to find out anything of 65 people which would be of use to either side – but equally I can’t see how 30 days could do either. How much weight do you guys actually put in jury selection – is it not just hocus pocus? and where you will always have an imperfect system, is random not just fairer?

    Really interested in any thoughts

  4. In my corner of California it’s not uncommon for the judge limit voir dire to 10 or 12 minutes (for each side, for the panel). In my trials, I’ve had as little as 12 minutes and the most I ever got was 30 minutes. I think most judges in these parts would consider 30 minutes per side for the panel to be very generous.
    There’s a case that says “zero” time for voir dire is “not enough,” but other than that, it’s an open question. What is the least amount of voir dire you can have without violating due process? I’m sure it’s inevitable that someday a judge will measure it in seconds.

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