As a long-time Boston criminal lawyer, I can tell you that jury selection, at least in the Massachusetts state courts, is usually an exercise that takes far less time than it does in other jurisdictions
There are exceptions, of course. For example, picking a jury in a Massachusetts rape case or anything that has children as the alleged victim, takes longer because many potential jurors simply do not want to serve on such a case.
In many jurisdictions, the court allows the attorneys to question the jurors.
Not in Massachusetts. As a result, picking the men and women who will make a decision that can end a citizen’s life as he knows it, usually takes around one to two hours.
Of course, the homicide case of the late Michael Jackson is not taking place in Massachusetts. The jury selection in that matter, has just taken place in California, has begun. Dr. Conrad Murry (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) is charged with involuntary manslaughter. Authorities contend he gave the singer a lethal dose of the anesthetic drug Propofol in the bedroom of the singer’s rented mansion on June 25, 2009.
The jury, containing seven-men and five-women has been selected by active participation on the parts of both the attorneys and the court.
They were culled from a group of 145 potential jurors.
The trial is expected to take roughly five weeks. Opening statements are expected to begin tomorrow.
In Massachusetts, the trial would have probably been over before this jury was selected.
Attorney Sam’s Take On Who Selects Your Jury
“Sam, are you saying that a Massachusetts criminal defendant does not participate in selecting his own jury?”
No, that would not be true. What happens in Massachusetts is that a jury panel is brought into the courtroom along with the brief questionnaires they filled out. Both the Commonwealth and the defense are given the questionnaires and a couple of minutes to both review them and begin looking at the prospective jurors as they are called (while listening to the judge speaking to the jurors of course).
“Why do you want to look at the prospective jurors?”
Believe it or not…vibes. Many times the difference between picking between jurors comes down to vibes. What feeling to they give off? Are they smiling when the prosecutor identifies herself and snaring when the defense attorney stands?
The questionnaires, of course, give some information, but it is basically background information. That, too, is important, but it is not really enough, in my opinion, to get a full sense of the strangers who now sit before you, ready to pass judgment.
” Was ‘jury vibes’ something you learned in law school?”
No. That can only be learned through experience.
I was horrified when I started picking jurors as a Boston criminal lawyer. Horrified at how little time I was given and how little impact I had on the process. I was used to New York, where I was a prosecutor. There, the lawyers were given some (albeit somewhat brief) access to the prospective jurors. We were able to ask questions that we felt were important to ask of the prospective fact-finders. We were able to gage the reaction by the panel to each attorney as well.
But, not here.
“Well, is that fair?”
Well, it would not be fair if only one side were able to address the jurors and the other side was not. This is not the case.
On the other hand, the prosecution does have an inherent advantage in most cases going into jury selection. Most prospective jurors already see the prosecutor as the “good guy”. More trustworthy. Sure, there are some folks where this is in reverse. Some people do not trust law enforcement. However, in most cases, the Commonwealth and their witnesses (particularly police witnesses) are assumed instantly credible while the defense…well, you know.
So…what is the point?
In Massachusetts, jury selection is brief and actually pretty high-pressured. These are, after all, the ladies and gentlemen who will be deciding the case and effecting your life if you or a loved one sits in the defendant’s seat. So, as always, you want an experienced criminal defense attorney sitting at the helm of your defense who is up to the challenge.
Your liberty likely depends on it.
To view the article upon which this blog is based, please go to http://www.scpr.org/news/2011/09/23/29032/jury-selection-resumes-jackson-doctor-trial/