November 2013 - Pg 9-Attorney Question
Attorney Question of the Month
This month’s Attorney Question of the Month is the final installment of answers to a question we first asked in September. This line of inquiry, 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?
Our affiliated attorneys’ responses follow–
Fletcher & Phillips
541 E. Monroe St., Jacksonville, FL 32202
In answer to the first question, I do not think there is a stock answer. It depends on where the incident happened, who the people are, and how the incident occurred. As an example, while I might want CWFL holders on most self-defense juries, I also have seen people who carry be the most critical of mistakes by fellow carriers.
If the defendant made any mistakes, a question about making errors under pressure may be more important than a person’s belief in self defense. After all, the judge will give them the law, but people who believe themselves infallible are more likely to take any error of action the state can show and use it as an excuse to convict.
Alienating a jury can be very easy. Gun owners must be careful what they say online and what messages they put on their car. For example, if you have a bumper sticker that says “Keep honking, I’m reloading,” expect the prosecutor to use that against you to show the jury you are prone to road rage, especially if the facts of your case involve an incident on the road.
Any posts on forums or social media will also likely be exploited. In short, live a clean, non-controversial life, and do not look like a troublemaker.
Michael G. Giles
Creed & Giles, Ltd.
520 South 7th Street, Suite D, Las Vegas, NV 89101
The questions this month actually deserve a chapter each. Here are my brief answers to them.
Jury selection, a process formally called voir dire, is part art and part science. Both sides attempt not only to seat jurors favorable to their case, but also to remove jurors they feel will be good for the other side. Every prospective juror gets asked if they understand the concept of innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, if they believe police never lie (or always lie), if the person at the defense table must be guilty or he wouldn’t be there and other stock questions. Those who fail these simple introductory questions are immediately dismissed. Those that remain are asked more penetrating questions by both the prosecutor and the defense. Rarely is any one juror trait perfect for either side, however, in self-defense cases there are certain traits I look for during voir dire.
First and foremost I want jurors who believe the Second Amendment grants us the right to possess firearms for personal defense and that the right to personal defense is one every person enjoys. I want jurors without a religious objection to killing, who have a strong protective nature and an open mind. I also want long-term locals and will usually avoid potential jurors who recently relocated from a historically “anti-gun” jurisdiction.
In the end we will be stuck with a jury of 12 people from a prospective pool of about 50. We may not get exactly what we want, and in fact, rarely do. A borderline juror may be swayed by my client’s appearance, demeanor or history.