In the movie “Runaway Jury,” a ruthless jury consultant tries to dig up dirt on potential jurors to blackmail them. How does a real jury consultant work? The Seattle Post-Intelligencer writes about Alan Cohen, who has worked in hundreds of cases, including the defense of a man sho killed two men and wounded two others a the Seattle shipyard in 1999.
The newspaper says Cohen’s “mock jury” panels can help show if a case may be a courtroom winner or best be settled before trial. Farfetched movie portrayals and off-target public perceptions make Cohen cringe, the Post-Intelligencer says. “To think of what I do as a manipulation or a spin-doctoring actually distorts the process,” Cohen said.
In Cohen’s view, jury selection is about asking the right questions to find out how people view the “moral conflict” that he believes is at the center of each case. He tries to dispel the notion of making assumptions based on someone’s gender, background, age or lifestyle. “Not all single mothers who are well-educated are going to vote the same way,” he said. “Those kinds of stereotypes are the most coarse and inelegant way of picking a jury.”
Cohen, 54, earned a doctorate in speech communication science and spent 15 years as a psychotherapist before taking on trial consulting about 10 years ago.