September 2013 - Pg 14-Attorney Question
Attorney Question of the Month
This month’s Attorney Question of the Month kicks off a new topic of discussion, on which we polled the Network’s Affiliated Attorneys. This question, posed by Network President Marty Hayes, asked– For the most part, jury selection is glossed over in law school (or not discussed at all), even though the jury is the trier of fact. With this in mind, this is a two-part question. First, as the attorney handling a self-defense shooting, what type of people would you want on a jury? Next, what steps can the armed citizen take ahead of time to ensure that they do not alienate a jury?
Here is what our affiliated attorneys told us–
Kevin L. Jamison
Attorney at Law
2614 Northeast 56th Terrace, Gladstone, MO
The school solution is to get people who are normally considered prosecution jurors. We want gun owners, of course. Most women who own guns do so for self defense. Many people will not admit they have guns for self defense. You have to ask around that question. We want strong, independent jurors.
People who pontificate about the law do not get on juries. People who talk about jury nullification do not get onto juries. Strident people do not get onto juries. Like John Wayne said, “Talk low, talk slow, and don’t talk too much.”
Emanuel Kapelsohn, Esq.
Lesavoy Butz & Seitz LLC
1 Windsor Plaza, 7535 Windsor Drive, Suite 200, Allentown, PA 18195-1034
Obviously, a defendant who has used a gun in self-defense will want jurors who are pro-gun and favorably inclined to the concept of self defense.
It might seem that one would want “conservative” jurors rather than “liberal” ones, but I think it can be more complex than this, and can depend on the details of the case, media coverage, political climate, personalities of those involved (who may be known in the community), local crime patterns, demographics, and other factors.
In my experience working in jury trials all over the country, I believe experienced local trial counsel is often in the best position to advise on picking the right jurors for any particular case. Local counsel may be better, in my opinion, than some of the high-priced “jury consultants” that are out there. As a quick example of how local knowledge can be important, a few years ago I worked in a case resulting from an armed robbery in Tucson, Arizona. Lead trial counsel, excellent attorneys from New York with whom I had worked many times, proposed to ask the prospective jurors in voir dire, “Do any of you own guns?” The judge mildly reprimanded the New York attorney, saying, “No, counsel, I’m not going to let you embarrass yourself like that. This is Tucson, Arizona. I’ll let you ask them what all kinds of guns they own, but not whether or not they own guns.” At the end of a seven-week long trial, we got a verdict in our favor.
As to what steps the armed citizen can take ahead of time to ensure they do not alienate a jury, I think it may be more useful to think about what steps they should not take. Remembering that you want your actions (and therefore, yourself) to appear as reasonable as possible to the jury, do not do anything that makes you appear anything other than reasonable–and certainly not as an extremist, a radical, a racist, a “gun nut,” or a “self-defense nut” to a jury of ordinary folks from your part of the country.
Don’t have your social media site filled with photos of you holding fully automatic weapons and wearing the T-shirt that says, “Kill ’em all–Let God sort ’em out!”