September 2015 Bar Bulletin
Gauging Your Jury: Thinking Outside the Box about Those in the Box (Part Two)
By Theodore O. Prosise and Jonathan Lytle
Several years ago, Tsongas examined the characteristics of the local jury pool, based on extensive experience in local jury trials. The results yielded new insight into the types of jurors who actually show up for jury selection.1 This article addresses the characteristics of actual seated panels as a factor of trial length, but expanded the scope to include jury trial panels in five western states.
Conventional wisdom is that if you have a jury trial lasting more than three or four weeks, your panel will largely be composed of retirees, the unemployed, the disabled and homemakers. The reasoning is that length of service will present an undue hardship on many employed individuals, thus skewing the eligible pool to people drawn from the categories above.
But that view, which has been shared with us numerous times by our clients, has not been consistent with our experience. To test the issue, we examined the demographic characteristics of 290 jurors who sat as actual jurors in 22 different trials located in major cities in five western states over a two-year period.
The results stand in stark contrast to the conventional wisdom. Contrary to popular belief that longer trials result in an increased number of retired jurors, jurors over the age of 60 constituted only 15 percent of this group. More than 50 percent of the jurors sitting in trials lasting four weeks or longer were between the ages of 40 and 59.
With regard to educational background, jurors with a high school degree, GED or less constituted the largest portion of jurors, accounting for 27 percent of the population. However, jurors with some college and those with a college degree accounted for 47 percent of the sample, and jurors with graduate degrees accounted for 10 percent. Finally, 74 percent of jurors sitting on trials lasting four weeks or longer were employed in a full-time capacity.
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