Virtual Trial Advice Column – Don’t Let Voir Dire Become a Circus

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Virtual Trial Advice Column – Don’t Let Voir Dire Become a Circus

Lexology news service features an opinion piece by litigation consultant Ken Broda-Bahm, Ph.D.  He quotes an affidavit from jury selection in a Houston civil trial:

Prospective jurors for an asbestos trial were seen sleeping, driving cars, disappearing off camera, applying makeup, playing video games while wearing a gaming headset, preparing and eating meals, watching TV, playing with pets, lying in bed and on a couch, drinking alcohol and vaping during questioning.

The author advocates for a number of improvements for virtual jury selection, including a process whereby prospective jurors report to a way station between the courthouse and their homes to ensure that they have the technology and the connectivity they need. They should also be subject to a checklist to assess computer position, camera and microphone functions, and knowledge of controls and be in an appropriate location, with a proper backdrop and lighting, as well as sufficient Internet speed.

Minnesota Lawyers Complain About Lack of Jury Diversity

The Minnesota Star Tribune reports, in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, there is an intensified push by public defenders to have more diversified jury panels.  For example, in a criminal assault case now pending in Minneapolis, the defense alleges that, even though a racially diverse jury convicted Derek Chauvin, Hennepin County’s jury selection process “habitually” results in unrepresentative juries.  The defendant’s attorney Emmett Donnelly is asking the court to take specific steps to improve jury diversity—expand the public lists from which the names of jurors are drawn and collect more data about who isn't showing up for jury duty.  To support the latter request, Donnelly cited the sworn testimony in January of jury office supervisor Brenda Langfellow in an unrelated case. According to a transcript, she was asked if she knew why Black people were underrepresented on juries in the past three years and responded that she did not.  Asked whether the office makes adjustments if it sees a trend in jury demographics, Langfellow said: "We don't analyze for race."  Donnelly argues that failing to collect racial data on who shows up for jury duty is a systemic failure and violates court rules. He noted the state requires counties to "collect and analyze information" about the performance of the jury system.  "It's a matter of there being some willingness to recognize the problem and do something about it.”

Laredo College Provides “Art-Full” Venue for Jury Selection

After fourteen months without a jury trial, the Webb County (Laredo, Texas) district court has partnered with Laredo College to have jury voir dires held in the school’s LC Guadalupe and Lilia Martinez Fine Arts Center Theater.  This picture says it all.

Juror Summoning – Should Courts Ask About Vaccination Status?

The Morning Call reports that, if you live in Lehigh County (Allentown, Pennsylvania), there’s a greater chance than usual that you’ll be called for jury duty this summer. Court officials have sent out 50% more juror summonses than usual, and there are dozens of cases, including some high-profile homicides, scheduled for trial.  The article indicates the court system will not limit summoning to only those who have been vaccinated out of concern that excluding the unvaccinated will make the jury pool less representative of a fair cross-section of the community.

Another Juror in Derek Chauvin Trial Speaks About the Experience

Twenty-five-year-old Journee Howard last week gave an interview to the talk show Get Up! Mornings about her experience as Juror #9 in the Chauvin trial.