Summer is jury duty time here in Los Angeles, at least among those of us with jobs at the University. The various courts know that instructors are less likely to plead disruption of classwork, and that USC pays for 10 days of jury duty. The result is that more of my colleagues than usual are being called to do their civic duty.

It seems strange that they call so many of us, because they seem to put so few on juries. More often than not one of our potential peers will return with stories of how many panels they were dismissed from rather than torrid tales of the wrongdoing that they were forced to review. Let's face it, the lurid glimpse of shattered lives that a trial provides is more vicarious, guilty fun than hearing how attorneys are biased against jury candidates.

I miss the courtroom drama, but then again Matlock remains in TV land, so I'm never starved for judicial hijinks. It also is less taxing on the conscience to be entertained by actors rather than real ruined lives.

The point I want to make about jury selection is that there's no future in trying to beat it. The process is either too capricious or too complex to fathom in sufficient detail to be able to effectively influence it in the week that you're given.

Everyone has a theory, of course. They'll dumb down answers, or try extending them, withhold information or embellish an incident. Short of telling the judge that you know the defendant, it really doesn't have any predictable effect. I was seated as an alternate juror in a hit-and-run case after telling the judge and the attorneys the truth that I had been the pedestrian victim of the same crime within 5 years of the trial. I'm sure everyone involved considered my seating rational in some unfathomable way.

Try the following game next time you're sitting in the box watching a panel being selected. Make up all four possible explanations for the prosecution and defense wanting or not wanting each juror on the panel. It's a lot like making up conspiracy theories. In fact, you can do a panel or two just tying each prospective juror into various conspiracies. What tipped the prosecutor that the juror was a fellow Mason? Does the public defender know how to trigger the MK-ULTRA commands that are latent in another?

Beats trying to come up with another story about the cops beating your brother.

This page written and maintained by Ted Faber (faber@lunabase.org).
Please mail me any problems with, or comments about this page.
PGP Public Keys