August 2014 Bar Bulletin
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August 2014 Bar Bulletin

Jury Consultants: No Case Is Too Big or Too Small

By Elizabeth D. Bottman

 

Jury consultants were recently in the news when The Seattle Times reported that the King County Department of Public Defense approved $60,690 in public funds so that defense attorneys for accused cop-killer Christopher Monfort could hire a jury consultant. Their goal was to help "weed out individuals who ... are unqualified to sit as jurors in a capital case" and to select "the most fair-minded jurors possible."1

It's not a surprise that some attorneys who represent clients in large cases hire consultants for every trial. But it may surprise some to learn that consultants can help with one or two tasks and at fees that solo practitioners may be able to afford.

Jeffrey Boyd is both a trial consultant and an attorney. He is president of Boyd Trial Consulting and also is a principal in the Seattle law firm of Nelson Boyd.

Boyd notes that there aren't as many trials as there used to be. Statistics back him up. According to John Langbein in a 2012 Yale Law Journal article, jury trials in 2002 made up less than 1 percent of all state court dispositions.

[I]n American civil justice, we have gone from a world in which trials, typically jury trials, were routine, to a world in which trials have become 'vanishingly rare.' ... By the year 2002, only 1.8% of federal civil filings terminated in trials of any sort, and only 1.2% in jury trials.... At the state level, where most civil litigation takes place..., jury trials in 2002 constituted less than one percent (0.6%) of all state court dispositions.2

Choosing a Jury and Crafting a Message

Attorneys with large cases often employ trial consultants throughout their case, to help with everything from crafting their message, to weeding out biased jurors.

Attorney David Marshall defends clients who have been charged with special assault, such as child sexual abuse, rape of a child, domestic violence or elder abuse. Marshall asks the consultant, during voir dire, to help find those people who can't be fair to his client.


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