Rhianna Lucas, a student in Jon Pfeiffer’s Fall 2015 Mass Communication Law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the following essay in response to the prompt: On his way to his Media Law class this afternoon, A went to check his campus mailbox and found an unpleasant surprise: a jury duty notice. While sulking and grumbling to his friend B about how he’s too busy to attend, B suggested that being on a jury would give him a better perspective on everything he’s learning in class and that he might even be put on an interesting case. A considered B’s advice and changed his mind; he is now looking forward to jury selection and is determined to make it on a jury. How should A go about preparing for jury selection to increase his chances of being on the jury?
Attorneys don't get to pick their jurors, instead, utilizing a system of questioning, observations, and stereotyping, they are given the ability to eliminate individuals that they think may hurt their case. Overall, it is quite difficult to figure out what exactly attorneys are looking for when selecting a jury. Thus, responding to their questions in a certain manner may help but does not guarantee a spot on the jury. First an attorney may look into person A’s experience with the law; the defense is looking for people who are more open-minded about the law, while the plaintiff’s attorney or prosecutor is looking for people who are more inclined to trust authority. Additionally, the attorneys may look into person A’s internet activity; social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn could possess a great deal of information about person A. For example, person A may belong to a particular group on Facebook that suggests a sign of bias. Furthermore, attorney may ask about person A’s religion; attorneys commonly look to dismiss individuals who allow their faith to hinder their ability to view a case objectively. It is also important to note that in a verdict, leaders and independent thinkers can be pivotal. Such individuals have the potential to motivate the rest of the group behind a unanimous decision—this is great for the plaintiff or the prosecutor. As a result, attorneys may look into person A’s past leadership positions and pay careful attention to how assertive he is during the questioning process. Also, it is possible that person A’s body language during the questioning process will be considered. Researchers state that open and receptive people will be sitting in open postures, for example, with their hands on the chair arm instead of folded across their stomach. Additionally, person A should evaluate his facial expressions, as they too may be assessed. Similarly, attorneys can make superficial judgments about an individual’s character based on their wardrobe. According to the Synchronics Group Trial Consultants, uptight and cautious jurors will wear more formal and well-maintained shoes; person A should dress neatly, yet conservatively and in a non-flashy manner. Although person A’s spot on the jury is uncertain, if he takes such things into consideration while preparing for jury selection his spot may become more secure.
Rhianna is a senior at Pepperdine University majoring in Integrated Marketing Communication/Writing.
Jon Pfeiffer is an experienced entertainment and copyright trial attorney practicing in Santa Monica. Jon is also an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California where he teaches Media Law. COM 570 covers First Amendment issues as well as copyright, defamation and privacy.