I’ve said before that lawyers fear jurors (and it’s clearly because they know they can’t control jurors and aren’t even sure they can persuade them). Surfing the web, I’ve come across several lawyer blogs with a “teach-em-to-heel” theme. One that’s very interesting is a WI lawyer’s blog (she seems to want to remain nameless) called “Deliberations.”
- Caveat: Turn off your speakers before you click the link, because you’ll get a Starbuck’s ad and then a loud TV voice.
But, if you’re on your way to jury duty, I urge you to study this site. Among the most interesting items there is a “Voir Dire Resources” link. Included are real jury questionnaires. They will shock you if you think jurors have a right to privacy.
Take a look at People v. Juan Luna (Brown’s Chicken Massacre, a case that took decades to solve). I note that the document is labeled “proposed,” so I don’t know that it was actually used in the trial. Let’s hope not.
Why? First, a prospective juror’s responses to the questions are public. They are provided to both the defense and the prosecution in advance of voir dire so the lawyers can ask further questions. Voir dire is conducted in open court, in front of not only the accused, his friends, family, and gang, but also the public, which may include bloggers and journalists.
Once a juror is selected to serve, the questionnaires and the voir dire become part of the official trial records. These records are available to the public after the trial. If the losing side in a trial wishes, it can pursue legal action against a juror based on the questionnaire and voir dire responses (perjury charges, for example).
Now I’m all for honest jurors without an ax to grind. And I appreciate lawyers’ fears that a lying, bitter, prejudiced citizen might end up on a jury. But the vast majority of people who serve on juries aren’t like that—but they give up their privacy anyway.
In the People v. Juan Luna questionnaire, note that right up front they want your Social Security Number. (I guess they never heard of identity theft or at least don’t care if jurors end up with ruined credit when the defendant’s deadbeat brother gets hold of the questionnaire.)
On page 3, the questionnaire asks not only for your complete, current address but also all prior addresses since the crime occurred. Why? Because the lawyers plan to do a complete credit search and background search and they want you to make it easy for them. All they really need to know legally is that you are a citizen residing in the court’s jurisdiction and there’s no reason to believe you can’t be objective. How does your residential history figure into that?
Questions 9 and 10 (smallest and largest communities in which the juror ever resided) are a trick to get the juror to reveal addresses before the crime occurred—completely irrelevant but useful for impugning a juror.
Then it gets really personal. I’ll let you read that for yourself, but I would like to point out that it asks for personal information about everyone in your extended family, your employers, and your friends and acquaintances. In other words, they want prospective jurors to expose private matters of everyone in their social network, not only themselves. In the two voir dire sessions I sat through, the judge asked everyone about family members prior involvement in trials—that’s all. I felt this was intrusive, foolish me.
The only question they forgot to ask was: What is your Facebook login ID and password?
If I ever receive a summons with a questionnaire like this attached, I plan to consult a lawyer before I respond.