High-Profile Jurors Are An Unrepresentative Lot

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The difficulties faced by jurors in high-profile trials may lead to unrepresentative panels, says the Washington Post. Just this week, an attorney for accused California murdered Scott Peterson accused a potential juror of concealing her hatred of Peterson; Martha Stewart’s lawyers said that one of the jurors who convicted her had kept quiet about his own legal problems; and a juror in the pending Tyco theft case in New York has become infamous for apparently being a lone holdout against conviction. “We’re seeing a lot more of these attacks on juries and the focus on juror behavior,” said Ed Mannino, a Philadelphia trial lawyer. “Judges really don’t like it because it’s going to make a lot of people not want to serve on juries.”

Many Americans want to avoid serving in prominent cases, but some “want their 15 minutes of fame,” said Linda A. Foley, a psychology professor at the University of North Florida who studies juries. “You’re getting a jury that isn’t representative of the population.”

Because so many people are not willing to serve, “You end up with a narrow subset of people, older people, government workers,” said New York Law School professor Randolph N. Jonakait. Then there are those who have ulterior reasons for wanting to take part. “It’s everyone from the guy who wants to write a book to the woman who hopes to get a job with one of the companies in the case . . . to the person who is angry at the world and is willing to ignore the facts to send a message,” said Philip K. Anthony of the trial consulting firm DecisionQuest. “It’s a clear distortion of the system and in recent years we’ve seen more of it.”

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A43422-2004Apr1.html

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