In the early 2000s, Glenn Meyer, PhD conducted several studies of mock juror sentencing severity affected by firearms’ “aggressive or menacing” appearances compared against sporting or less militaristic guns. A recent YouTube video mention of his study has members asking whether juries still apply those prejudices to verdicts, so we asked our Affiliated Attorneys to weigh in.
In your experience, are jurors biased against self defense with a firearm that a prosecutor may say has an aggressive or menacing appearance, like an AR-15 rifle?
If choosing a jury for a trial pertaining to armed self defense, what questions, if any, would you ask potential jurors about gun ownership or experience and training with firearms?
If interested, there is background material at https://www.thejuryexpert.com/wp-content/uploads/MeyerTJESep2009Volume21No5.pdf which we explored with Dr. Meyer at https://armedcitizensnetwork.org/our-journal/archived-journals/276-october-2012#Top and the currently-circulating video is at YouTube under the title of How an AR-15 Can Send You to Prison.
Larry P. McDougal
The Law Office of Larry P. McDougal
809 Houston St., Richmond, TX 77469
I have tried several and I have a self defense killing jury trial in a few months. I never focus on the weapon.
I focus on the bad acts of the aggressor and your right to defend yourself. You will draw the anti gun people out with the right to use deadly force in self defense.
James D. “Mitch” Vilos
Attorney at Law, P.C.
P.O. Box 1148, Centerville, Utah 84014
I appreciate the article by the jury consultant on the type of firearm used in self defense. I think that article could provide a better chance of getting a judge to sustain a defense motion in limine to keep a prosecutor from showing the firearm allegedly used in self defense, especially if it is an AR-15 or other unusually “evil-looking” weapon. Not sure if the defense tried that in the Rittenhouse case, but obviously if a motion to preclude the prosecution from showing the AR-15 was attempted it was denied. I think the prosecution even pointed the rifle at the jury during the case!
I made a motion to exclude the showing of a shotgun with a heat shield that looked like something out of the Matrix film, but it was denied.
I cringe at insignia on weapons that convey an intent to kill or maim, such as R.I.P. or a decal of “The Punisher” skull. Prosecutors seem to be intent on eroding the right of self defense anyway – no need to assist them in their quest by making your defensive weapon appear more “evil.”
I had one case where the judge asked prospective jurors if they were gun owners and, if so, what kind of gun it was. Voir dire was conducted in chambers so prospective juror’s answers would not taint other jurors. But asking that question in a case involving an unusually scary-looking weapon would be important.
I had one case where the prosecution improperly had my client’s weapon (a short club) on his counsel table during voir dire (oral voir dire before the entire jury venire). My client had brandished the club out of the window of his vehicle when he and his girl friend were being harassed by the alleged victims occupying another vehicle. I picked up the club during my oral voir dire and ask prospective jurors if they or their family members carried such weapons for self defense in their vehicles. To my surprised, several raised their hands. One juror said he carried a pistol under his seat. I felt that took the wind out of the prosecutor’s sails, so to speak, by trying to shock the jury about the use of the club during his opening statement. “Not Guilty,” incidentally.
I agree with the jury consultant that the “uglier” the defensive weapon appears, the more chance of a conviction. You’ve got to attempt to normalize the use of such a weapon throughout the trial beginning with voir dire.
I would propose asking jurors if they own an AR-15. Here in Utah I’d be surprised if a significant number of prospective jurors didn’t own one, especially in cases brought outside the Salt Lake City metropolitan area. Furthermore, the fact that a prospective juror owns an AR-15 would be a strong indicator to me that he or she would be a favorable juror in a case involving a defensive shooting with an AR.
Law Office of Nabil Samaan
6110 Auburn Folsom Road, Granite Bay, CA 95746
While I have not tried a gun case, I do explore these issues with people in the community. There is no doubt that guns by definition to some are criminal. A prosecutor argued mere possession of a gun was threatening when I was in court two months ago on my huge gun case which was affirmed by the judge in September.
The media and the left have created this environment by prohibiting guns from being exposed to the public through prohibiting open carry, and showing criminals carrying guns. Recently while in Wyoming a man was open carrying in a resort area. No one cared, no one noticed, because it is commonplace.
If Republicans had any true commitment to the Second Amendment there would be funding for gun education in schools, and government grants that encouraged safe gun ownership. Maybe tax write offs for guns and ammo.
The reason open carry like in the Baird case in the 9th Circuit is a tremendous threat is because wherever there is open carry crime goes down. If that happens in California blind people will be able to see again.
The Baird case temporary restraining order has been ordered back to the trial judge to reconsider her order not granting a TRO because somehow Judge Mueller, the chief judge in Sacramento federal court, lacks understanding of the TRO test. She was told to expedite her ruling in light of Bruen. The honest result is that open carry could very soon be a reality in California and that would then educate people about good guys with guns and change the narrative which was the basis of your question.
Thank you, affiliated attorneys, for sharing your experience and knowledge. Members, please return next month when we have a new question for our affiliated attorneys.