Feb 16, 2010 When jurors are preoccupied over a sick economy
When I have a lengthy jury trial scheduled, I ask the potential jurors (where lawyer-directed jury voir dire is permitted) and ask the judge to ask the potential jurors (where lawyer-directed voir dire is not permitted) how they feel about being away from their daily routine to sit on the jury. Many potential jurors have very sincerely said that they feel it is an important duty that they welcome and accept. Numerous others want out, and now.
My multi-day (and multi-week) jury trials have been particularly interesting and of particular consequence, as opposed to a dry and annoying trial to decide which millionaire receives the lion’s share of the late parents’ estate. Furthermore, in today’s economically-depressed, job-depressed, job-stressed, and job-risky climate, watch out all the more for potential jurors freaking out about their job security and lost pay and profits (for those who own their own businesses or work on commission or get paid per job) who will not be well-focused on the trial, will throw wrenches in the engine of the jury deliberations, and will outright screw parties to the trial.
Thanks to a listserv member for providing this link that illustrates this problem in detail, stemming from a civil trial where the jurors rebelled so terribly that both sides ultimately agreed to dismiss the jury and let the judge decide the case.
Even when the economy improves, it remains critical for lawyers, judges and the court system to look out fully for the needs of jurors. Unless a juror has a secure government job where assignments do not mount up and get backlogged while on the jury, and unless a juror is retired or independently wealthy and loves the jury experience, watch out for jurors who get preoccupied about all the things they cannot get done while serving on the jury, including checking in on children in daycare; engaging in job hunting; checking frequently with their offices and customers; transporting children and other family members to doctors and back home; checking in with their significant other, particularly if trying to work out a falling out; taking regular breaks for smoking, snacks and the bathroom; and getting outside in the sun to escape the commonly stuffy, windowless, and often depressing courtrooms where many jurors can get traumatized by hearing, seeing and experiencing the deeply traumatic human drama often covered in the most minute and sometimes annoying and excruciating detail in the courtroom.
The least that lawyers can do to accommodate jurors is to be fully prepared and to present their evidence, testimony, cross examination, and opening and closing arguments sensitively and with an eye towards making their cases interesting, persuasive and relevant to the jurors, and with an eye towards helping the jurors remember the most important facts, figures and concepts in the trial, where for many if not all jurors, they are being fed information, facts, figures, allegations, and noise at a dizzying pace.
For more on the jurors’ perspective, see SunWolf’s books on jury dynamics.