HOW DO LAWYERS HANDLE JURY SELECTION WITH HIGH-PROFILE CLIENTS

From: News at Northeastern

High profiles court cases receive a lot of media attention.

How do lawyers and jurors handle this?

Does it effect the jurors thought process?

This article from Northeastern is helpful.

It’s no secret that trials involving celebrities and high-profile figures capture significant public and media interest. Look no further than the O.J. Simpson trial—a courtroom spectacle that enthralled millions. More recently though, cases involving actor Bill Cosby and “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli have been in the spotlight.

Shkreli’s trial got underway last week, after the judge spent days looking for jurors who could ignore the negative press over his involvement in a drug price-gouging scandal. “Over three days,” The Washington Post reported of Shkreli’s jury selection process, “more than 250 prospective candidates were dismissed, many because of their views of the defendant.”

Cosby’s trial, meanwhile, was declared a mistrial last month, but the prosecuting attorney has vowed to retry the case.

We asked law professor Daniel Medwed, an expert in criminal law and criminal procedure, about the challenges of selecting a jury for a high-profile case and whether celebrity works for or against the defendant.

Question 1. What sort of questions do attorneys ask during voir dire? How will they know whether jurors can be impartial—and do attorneys always necessarily want that?

In high-profile cases like these involving a celebrity who enjoys a local, national, and even international following, it would be futile to try to find jurors who haven’t heard of the case; in fact, it would be futile to seek people who are unaware of the recent mistrial in the Cosby case. Instead, the goal is to ask questions aimed at finding jurors who, regardless of their familiarity with the case, can put aside what they have heard and look at the facts objectively and dispassionately.

Attorneys will look for nonverbal cues to determine not only whether the prospective jurors are being truthful about their claims of impartiality but also whether they may be ideologically inclined toward one side or the other. Of course, attorneys are engaged in an intricate dance during voir dire, wanting jurors who appear impartial—to avoid being challenged by the other side—but are really leaning in favor of their position. Lawyers may challenge prospective jurors for cause (e.g., bias) but also usually have an allotment of “peremptory challenges” that can be used to strike jurors without any justification.

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