Lying lies and the jurors that tell them


Look, we know juries are an enigmatic group. Take a look at Anne Reed’s deliberations and you’ll get the idea. But how brazen did you expect them to be? A fellow defense lawyer explains:

I did this first degree murder case last fall. My client committed the homicide. The defense was not guilty by reason of mental illness. My client got convicted, despite his really tragic history and diagnoses, and despite the fact that I came this close to getting the state’s dr. to admit that, indeed, my client met the statutory criteria.Some of the jurors were interviewed for some law day article. And one of the jurors said (who sat on my case) that he actually had a bias against mental health defenses, and did not think the mental health defense excused the conduct. AND he said no-one asked that question during jury selection.

Well, guess what? I did the v.d. I spent pretty much the whole time talking about mental health issues, and the venire folks were all talking back. And I asked that very question (in more than one way) and said juror did not respond. Another prospective juror indicated he did have reservations, and I spent a lot of time with him and then tried to get him excused for cause (failed, of course).

THEN (after being duly appreciative of the honesty of the venireperson), I asked who agreed with that person, and the guy who ended up on my jury, and who made the statements in the interview, actually indicated that he did not have such biases because he had a mentally ill person in his family, and he would certainly want to be more compassionate and fair. He lied to me. I cannot put any other construction on events, having (finally) received the appellate transcripts for the case.

It’s one thing to lie to get on a jury (although most lie to get off). It’s another to lie, then play like you didn’t, because no one asked you, when it’s damn simple to just get a transcript and prove you wrong.

What’s the point, you ask? I don’t know. It just got me steamed up enough to post about it.

4 thoughts on “Lying lies and the jurors that tell them

  1. Stephen Gustitis

    Getting jurors to talk is difficult enough, but to have them lie to us is simply despicable. I have found that relying upon potential jurors to tell us how they really feel, without a direct question from us, is a very undependable method for getting the truth. At the same time we are typically under the gun from the court and time limits on voir dire. Asking every juror specific questions on every important issue is almost impossible, in many cases. I try to get a commitment from the jurors upfront that they can share their true feelings without fear. Anyway, thanks for this anecdote.


  2. Sean O'Brien

    A little off-topic, but here I go . . . . what’s your view of the questioning of jurors during vior dire about whether they engage in auto-erotic activity? This was arguably relevant because the defendant was charged with doing just that in jail.

    I think it an abusive tactic. Perhaps jurors are less forthcoming because voir dire is getting more intrusive.

  3. Stephen Gustitis

    That’s a tough call. If the answer to the question is important enough to help you find the jury best able to receive your theory of the case, then we need to figure out a way to ask questions like this without forcing the juror’s guard up. I don’t think we are abusing jurors by asking them tough questions, but to avoid alienating them, we must craft questions carefully and present the questions in a way that in non-judgmental. If we must ask tough questions – sometimes we have to give the juror a way out, like “if you’d like to talk privately about this question we can do that at the bench.” Anyway, my thoughts this Tuesday morning.


  4. Sean O'Brien

    Well, my response to the lawyer would have been, “Do you?”.

    And you are abusing jurors when you are asking them to disclose personal information like that. And you cannot complain if they lie about it either.


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