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- in Courtroom Trial Practice
- by Stephen Gustitis
Prosecutors typically don’t care how prospective jurors truly feel about issues related to their case. This is because most jurors are predisposed to convict someone accused of a crime. Let’s face it, prosecutors wear the white hat, regular folks presume guilt, and police officers are trusted. Consequently, a jury selection strategy for prosecutors is simply a grooming process. Grooming the panel to do what they’re already inclined to do. Furthermore, the prosecutors know the outliers (the folks they don’t want) will usually speak up and identify themselves as good defense jurors. It’s then only a matter of tying them down and working a strike for cause. At worst, the outlier is on the prosecutor’s peremptory strike list for later.
After the State is finished with voir dire, defense lawyers rarely understand how most of the panel feel about important issues related to the case. However, this is where our advantage begins. Our advantage in a criminal trial is we go last in jury selection and the state has no rebuttal, at least not in Texas. And without a rebuttal, it’s the defense lawyer’s opportunity to learn how folks really feel and tie them down on issues for which they have strong feelings. If we can get them committed in front of the panel they rarely change their position when the State attempts to rehabilitate them later. Our jury selection strategy should be to commit jurors and prepare them for our final arguments.
Bryan-College Station criminal defense lawyers must understand how prospective jurors really feel about issues like police credibility, the burden of proof, reasonable doubt, and the presumption of innocence. Get everyone talking. Do not be afraid of polluting the panel by answers to tough questions. Better for potential jurors to reveal their true feelings than for those jurors to find themselves in deliberation. In fact, when one juror starts revealing true feelings that often opens the flood gate of honesty from everyone else.
So don’t forget WE have the advantage in jury selection strategy since we go last. Ask difficult questions and don’t be afraid of the answers. Honesty breeds honesty among the jury panel and honesty is what we need to understand how the folks really feel.
Stephen Gustitis is a criminal defense lawyer in Bryan-College Station. He is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is also a husband, father, and retired amateur bicycle racer.