by Larry Carson
Smith & Carson
You’ve pored over the questionnaire answers, examined the body language, and characterized and rated the jurors based on your experiences with people of similar backgrounds, or better yet, a well-done jury profile based on data from mock-jury survey research; but you still feel uneasy, because you’ve been in this situation before. You know there’s a good possibility that something is lurking in the deep end of the pool -- that potential juror who could cause massive unexpected consequences (good or bad) for your case.
Surprise, surprise . . . Here are six types of jurors that may fly under your radar:
1. The forgetful litigant . . . You’ve asked about prior civil litigation, and she answered “no” to every question, no matter how it was phrased.
Maybe she just forgot, or maybe she doesn’t realize that all those nasty collection matters, eviction cases, bankruptcies, divorces, domestic violence, foreclosures, etc. are actually lawsuits and need to be divulged.
2. The elusive felon . . . He knows the ropes. He has a long history of felony arrests and petty crimes, but he always pleads down to misdemeanors and participates in diversion programs. Although his rap sheet is a block long, his official criminal record has been reduced to a few minor violations.
3. The tech-savvy grandma . . . With the help of her children or grandchildren, she has mastered the intricacies of bouncing in and out of her ten social media personae and has accumulated over 600 friends. She spends an inordinate amount of time each day consuming, digesting and voicing her opinion on everything in the world -- from her pastor’s Sunday sermon to the best crockpot recipes to the horrible people making ills in the world. She’s nobody’s fool, and she stands ready to continue her commentary if selected.
4. The extreme “moderates” . . . you may think a moderate is somewhere between a liberal and a conservative, but one of these self- professed moderate jurors supports 25 liberal causes and camped out at Occupy events last summer, while the other contributed thousands to right-wing candidates and has attended tea party events. Compared with the average voter, their level of activism is outside of the norm, so why do they claim to be “moderate”? Maybe everyone they know is comparatively active, or perhaps they feel that “moderate” is the safest answer in a room full of strangers. Whatever the reason, strong beliefs and active engagement won’t remain latent in the deliberation room.
5. The start-up king . . . In his dreams, he basks in a corner office, dines on a lavish expense account, and goes home to a mansion. Because he’s formed numerous companies, he portrays himself as a serial entrepreneur. But they have all failed and, in reality, he’s unemployed and deeply in debt. This is one Walter Mitty who may be looking for a way to even the score at your expense.
6. The legal hotshot . . . He’s read all the John Grisham thrillers and treats himself to Law & Order marathons on demand. He watches CSI and thinks real-life cases are resolved within an hour. He knows about luminol and considers himself a forensics expert. He doesn’t need to actually listen to the evidence or have those arrogant attorneys tell him the rules of law to know how the case should be decided. And he’s too smart to answer those questions intended to ferret out his true personality. He’s ready for his command performance. He just needs your vote.
It may be fun to read about these types of potential jurors, but it isn’t fun being surprised once they’re in the box. You know the types of jurors that are preferable or risky to your case. Having information during that critical selection process on juror experiences, personality, and character cuts down on surprises and helps you affect your selection strategy.
Larry Carson, President and Joanna Sole, Esq., Executive Vice-President, of Smith & Carson provided this guest post.
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