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Love Your Jurors – Know Your Jurors

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“You do not have the right to quit trying. (The universe wobbles when you do.) You have the right to quit Toxic People. (They’re contagious.) .” Dr. SunWolf (who confirms to me that this ubiquitous quote is indeed hers).

In Practical Jury Dynamics, amazing human, trial lawyer, and storyteller Dr. SunWolf says of amazing Denver criminal defense lawyer Lisa Wayne that Lisa loves her jurors and they love her back.

I have sat mesmerized in the presence of both of these women, with SunWolf showing how “reality is no obstacle” and with Lisa showing why we must not fear going to trial in the face of severe sentencing in the event of a guilty verdict. They both know the wide, deep, and profound injustice that is heavily intertwined in our criminal justice system, but know that cursing that darkness rather than skillfully lighting multiple candles against it only plays into the hands of those who would perpetuate such injustice.

Loving jurors who sit in judgment over our clients is easier said than done, but there is no other choice.

Being human, juries are far from perfect, and may include bigots, people who do not care about justice, and people who lied that they would be fair jurors, just to get on the jury. This truism plays itself out in Twelve Angry Men. Compassion from gentle juror number 8, played by Henry Fonda, ultimately persuades the eleven guilty voters to vote not guilty, one-by-one. Juror 8 persuades the rest to an acquittal not by anger nor by being overbearing, but by being gentle, empathetic, kind and caring.

The challenge for me and all criminal defense lawyers is to accept that we ordinarily are not going to change who our jurors are as people in the span of a few days or weeks or even months. The best we can do is to approach them with the power of t’ai chi ch’uan to seek to harmonize the situation as best we can for our clients, the caring of a thirteenth juror, and the love and client-focused passion exemplified by Lisa Wayne and SunWolf.

Through her writings, live presentations, webpage, blog, three Twitter pages (here, here and here), and especially direct conversation with her, Dr. SunWolf wonderfully inspires me to succeed both personally and professionally, and shares her infectious enchantment about persuasion and life.

Dr. SunWolf recognize that we must at once have compassion for jurors while recognizing that we must watch out for risky jurors. On the compassion front, her dedication in Practical Jury Dynamics says: “Dedicated to the thousands of citizens who are involuntarily summoned from private lives to courthouses across the country every year — who actually respond to that summons, then join with strangers to form powerful decision-making groups, that we call juries.” Let trial lawyers never lose sight of the deep sacrifices jurors make in terms of time, devotion, and being thrust into the spotlight.

On the keeping-on-our toes front, Dr. SunWolf recently posted at her (now-former) JuryTalk Twitter page: “A potential juror’s assurance of impartiality is never dispositive: Irvin v. Dowd, 366 U.S. [717] at 723 [(1961)]. Remind your judge.” SunWolf’s reference to Irvin is particularly interesting, in part because at first blush Irving seems mainly to provide guidelines for deciding whether to change the venue of a highly-publicized criminal case. A further reading of Irvin does support that during jury selection, judges may not accept a bald-faced claim of impartiality by a juror who has just stated material bias.

Deeply thanking and bowing to Dr. SunWolf and Lisa Wayne.