In Jury Selection, Remember Your Math

Professor in glasses thinking about math formulas

I recently had the opportunity to observe the jury selection process for a trial at my local courthouse.  The civil case was not terribly complex, nor was it a high-profile case.  The jury for the trial would consist of 6 jurors and 2 alternates.  Each side would have 3 peremptory strikes.

For some reason, the judge had decided to bring in a 50-person venire from which to select the jurors.

As I watched the attorneys in the case furiously scribbling down notes on all of the prospective jurors 1-50 as they responded to the voir dire questions, I was reminded of the method I use when selecting jurors from:  Do the math, and focus on the most important potential jurors in the jury selection process.

Do the Math and Focus on the Most Important Potential Jurors in the Jury Selection

If you do the math in this case, it’s easy to see that in order to select a 6-person jury, with 2 alternates, and to allow for 3 peremptory strikes per side, at the end of voir dire, the judge would need only a group of 14 prospective jurors.  Here’s the “equation”:

6 jurors + 2 alternates + (3 peremptory strikes x 2 sides) = 14 needed for final selection

In this courthouse, where the judges seat the jury from the top of the list (beginning with the juror with the lowest juror number), it seems inadvisable in the jury selection process to waste time focusing on taking detailed notes on jurors who appear too great a distance below the 14th name on the list.

Now, of course, you’d have to take into account the possibility that jurors among the first 14 might be stricken for cause, which is why you’d be right to focus attention on the first 20 or so jurors — perhaps the first 25.  But in an ordinary 1-week civil case, how many jurors does a judge realistically strike for cause?  How many more beyond the first 14 will truly be necessary for final selection?  Worrying about jurors all the way down to the end of the list is a waste of good brain power, and dilutes your focus on the prospective jurors who might be the most important.

In order to narrow your focus, you need to understand the jury selection rules of the court, and the process for choosing jurors from the list (e.g. some judges like to choose jurors from the bottom of the list).  But if you understand the jury selection procedures, and do some simple math, the result is a much more manageable process — where you can focus your time and thought and note taking, on those prospective jurors who might realistically have a chance of being seated and make the difference in your case.



Want more helpful tips about working with juries?  Take a look at the following articles:

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