Question about the jury selection process

I was wondering, why do the lawyers tend to weed out the jurors that tend to be the least educated, and know the littlest about law, and especially try to remove those jurors that know about the subject at hand (for instance, a genetics major when DNA evidence is crucial)? I think the lawyers would WANT someone that was most able to understand the evidence and understand their speeches, but everything I’ve heard, from classes, to reading, to watching trials, does not bear this out.

Thanks for any responses!

Well there are two sides to most cases. I doubt the DNA evidence is compelling for both sides. So one side or the other probably wants people who don’t trust this newfangled stuff.

They want people to listen to their case uncritically. The last thing they need is a jury member who says, “that lawyer doesn’t know crap.” Same for expert witnesses.

Second, for many people confusion = reasonable doubt.

I’m a bit cynical, so take this as thou wilt.

IMO lawyers are often more concerned with winning a case than discovering the truth. In a criminal case the accused is paying his lawyer to keep him out of jail. In a civil case the plaintiff’s attourney often gets a cut of the award. So there’s incentive to win.

For example, suppose an airplane crashes. Even if it is fairly evident that the pilot did something stupid (“Hey, let’s see if there really are violent updrafts and downdrafts in that massive thunderhead!”) the family may sue the aircraft manufacturer for not making an aircraft that would survive conditions that a reasonable person would say are unsurvivable. They may also sue the engine manufacturer for making an engine that was not powerful enough to get their loved ones out of harms way quickly, or that they alledge stopped at an inopportune moment (Gee, could the pilot have forgotten to refuel?) Then they may sue the FBO that rented the airplane to the pilot, on the grounds that they failed to provide proper maintenance or rented it to him when they “knew” conditions were bad. The guy’s flight instructor may be sued on the grounds that the instruction (even though the guy passed an FAA checkride) was lacking.

Now there are a couple of things to consider. Pilots can be hard on other pilots. They might hear the evidence and say, “What an idiot! I would never taken off in weather like that! Or if I did, I wouldn’t have gone anywhere near a thunderstorm!” The bereved family’s attorney is not going to want anyone who knows anything about aircraft on the jury if he can help it. Another thing is that the “general public” tend to fear “little airplanes”. People who don’t know about aircraft tend to think they are dangerous. Since the attorney’s goal is to win a fat settlement for his clients (and a 1/3 portion for himself) it behooves him to “stack the deck” by excluding as many pilots (and we all think we’re “experts” :wink: ) from the panel. On the other hand, the defending attourney would want the opposite.

In the case of DNA evidence, the accused defence would not want someone in the jury room to point out that the prosecutor made a stronger case because, “this is what they taught us about DNA, and by the way I’m at the head of my class”.

So IMO the reason they want to exclude “experts” is that the “experts” may ruin their case for them. Another reason is that an “expert” mightn’t know as much as he thinks he does. This could skew the case the other way. I think that they play it safe by excluding unknown quantities from the jury.

What the lawyers want to do is persuade the jury of the rightness of their case. Ignorant people are often more easy to sway than more intelligent people. Intelligent people can weigh facts, whereas people who aren’t quite as swift can often be manipulated by emotion.

All of that said, there are intelligent people who do get on juries. But having been called to service several times my own experience is that I would not want to spend time with most of the people in the jury pool.

BTW: I’ve been called again for next month. Sheesh, a woman I work with – who is about 25% older than I am – has never been called!


Ignorant people are more likely to make subjective rather than objective decisions.

One side may want the expert on DNA, in which case the other side is against having such an expert.

The OP relates to the reason there are “Jury Consultants”. :wink:

Lawyers are never interested in the truth, except maybe tangentially. The job of a lawyer is to win the case; the truth is totally irrelevant.

Why don’t lawyers want someone on the jury who can actually understand the evidence? Because they knew that they will be presenting the evidence (or trying to refute the opposition’s evidence), not in any sort of “truthful” manner, but rather in a manner skewed to put the best light on their case. They want jurors who will blindly accept the evidence as presented, not jurors who might actually know that what they’re being told isn’t quite accurate in some way.

As an example, suppose you’re a lawyer defending someone on a murder charge. And you know that the DNA evidence conclusively proves that the victim’s blood was in your client’s Bron… er, car. Would you want jurors who understand DNA? Or would you rather have jurors that will fall for you fancy footwork of casting the certainty of the DNA evidence in doubt? Jurors who will base their verdict not on a year’s worth of testimony but rather on a catchy rhyming phrase?

Damn straight. And in the context of a trial, if rightness = the truth, it is pure coincidence.

And Roadfood beat me to it, as I was trying to post during the nightly server back-up. He said it all better than I would have anyway.

As a scientist, this really irritates me as my pursuit of truth takes a very well defined course which includes, demonstrability, refutation, repeatability, peer review and such.

To Mrs. Tonk (a criminal defense attorney) and her ilk, the pursuit of truth is simply a matter of convincing a jury that they share the same opinion as she; whatever it is that day.

After 10+ years together, it still can strain our marraige sometimes.