Selecting juries a crucial, but imprecise process


It’s a fundamental right of all Americans: trial by jury. But it’s up to the attorneys to choose the people who sit in the jury box and decide our fates at trial. Rachel Lundberg brings us a look at how lawyers go about deciding who makes the final cut.

Mobile Readers – Click here to listen to “Selecting juries a crucial, but imprecise process” as an MP3

Attorney Scott Cochran at his law office in Youngstown, Ohio. (Rachel Lundberg/

Attorney Scott Cochran at his law office in Youngstown, Ohio. (Rachel Lundberg/

Lawyers have the opportunity before a trial begins to talk to potential jurors in a process called Voir dire.

Every lawyer has a slightly different approach.

Well it’s a mad science. What you want to do is uncover those stereotypes and to exclude those type of people, who might be predisposed to look negatively towards your client.

That’s David Betras, a local defense attorney.

There is no set rule. You’ve got to look at the case and get a feel for the case and then you get a feel for the type of jurors that you want.

Martin Desmond, a Mahoning County prosecuting attorney, tries to personalize his time with jurors.

And so it helps to connect with that juror… and just you know, showing that you’re human. You’re not this imposing government figure who’s impersonal and has no thoughts or feelings. I’m a person just like them.

Finding jurors for any case can take a long time.

It’s a rather tedious process.

Each attorney can veto a certain number of jurors without cause and an unlimited number of jurors for cause. Those causes, like extreme bias, are outlined in Ohio law.

Though attorneys have trusted approaches to weeding out unfavorable jurors, Betras says the outcome is never guaranteed.

You sort of just do it on what I call the theory of SWAG, which is the Scientific Wild Ass Guess.

However the jury makeup comes out, attorney Scott Cochran says the process is crucial.

You can win and lose your case in picking the jury.

Attorneys may have different approaches to Voir dire, but they agree that it’s a vital part of the judicial process.

Reporting for, I’m Rachel Lundberg