So how do you pick a jury in an DUI case? When you select a jury, your goal is to seat jurors who are likely to decide the case in your favor, and you want to leave off the jurors who are less likely to find in your clients favor. But how do you actually do that?
When you select a jury, your goal is to seat jurors who are likely to decide the case in your favor, and you want to leave off the jurors who are less likely to find in your clients favor. But how do you actually do that?
The way it works in Massachusetts district courts is they generally seat 7 jurors. You are allowed to remove an unlimited amount of jurors if you have legal cause to do so. And you are able to kick off 2 jurors with what is called Peremptory Challenges, which is for basically any reason you wanted to.
In Massachusetts, the jury selection options are much more limited than in many other states. Here, you do not get to ask individual questions of jurors.
All you can do is present a list of questions to the judge for him to ask, and the only question that I do ask that is particularly important is:
- Is anyone in the jury pool a member of Mothers Against Drunk Driving?
- Or do they have friends or family members that are members of MADD or are anti-drunk driving activists?
Members of that organization are likely to be biased against the defendant in a drunk driving case from the get go.
All you really know about jurors is what they fill out a 1-page sheet of information which tells you their basic information. You can see what they look like, but doesn’t tell you all that much. You know their name, how old they are, whether they have kids, their marital status, and a few other things. But sometimes people will write things on the form which clearly indicate that they might not be completely fair.
There was a study done a couple years ago that said statistically the worst jurors for the defense in drunk driving cases tend to be women. They tend to be a little worse than men on average although that is not a huge deal. Married people are statistically worse than single people and even worse are married people with kids.
There are also other types of jurors that I look out for. I am not thrilled about people who work in Emergency rooms or people who tend to associate with alcohol or accidents. But it is not really a matter of picking a jury you like because you don’t get to pick jurors you like. It’s a matter of kicking off the couple of jurors that you think are the worst potential jurors.
It doesn’t really matter if you think they are a good juror since you only have a very limited amount of challenges for the ones that you don’t like. It’s a question of how many bad jurors you want to remove.
You have a list of jurors in front of you and sometimes it is a judgment call. If I only have one peremptory challenge left to use, I have to decide if I use it to remove this juror, I may get one down the list that I think it is just as bad or worse for the defense. So there are a number of factors involved in your strategic jury selection choices.
In summary, jury selection is not a big factor in winning jury trials, simply because the options for picking a jury are quite limited as a defense lawyer in Massachusetts district courts.
Russell Matson is the founding attorney of The Law Offices of Russell J. Matson, PC a criminal defense law firm in Massachusetts. His website is http://madrunkdrivingdefense.com.