Ok, I will try to keep this short…no promises.
As you can imagine, the attorneys from each side of a case have different ideas about what kind of jurors they hope to have on a case. In narrowing down a jury pool…and just to give you an idea our pool started with 58, then they decided it had been narrowed too much and brought in 30 more…all that whittled down to 13 or 14…12 jurors and a couple alternates.
Attorneys can “challenge” a potential juror either for ’cause’ or ‘preemptory’ reasons. (Just as a side note, I think dismiss or excuse would be a better word choice than challenge, but no one asked me….) To challenge for cause is used when a juror says, “no, I’m sure I couldn’t be unbiased in this case.” or “I can’t do it because of my job…” Things like that. Pre-emptory means the attorneys don’t have to give a reason. The defense or prosecutor simply doesn’t want that juror.
I was excused…oops, I mean challenged, by the Defense for pre-emptory reasons. I can’t say that I blame them…it was a ‘child rape case’.
They asked all of us potential jurors if we or anyone we knew had been abused. (I should note here that they did give us an opportunity to speak to the attorneys and judge privately). I explained that I really did not know if I could be unbiased…I would certainly try…but because I am in therapy for this very thing, and have PTSD, I can’t promise anything. Apparently since I said I would try to be unbiased, they couldn’t challenge me for cause, though, I’m guessing the defense is wishing they could have challenged me earlier than because…
During the voir dire, the defense asked the jurors questions about their daughters, if the daughters had lied to them and so forth. The prosecuting attorney asked some of the jurors how they anticipated the defendant to act on the stand. They said nervous, etc. He then asked, “what if the defendant doesn’t seem nervous?” One potential juror, young guy (no more than 22) said that would led him to wonder if she was lying. The prosecutor then asked if anyone disagreed with that. A couple of us raised our hands.
“Juror #25, you raised your hand pretty fast, what do you think?”
I did? Oops. Then I explained as briefly as possible about dissociation and how I, for example, could talk to them quite unemotionally about my own abuse that does NOT mean that I am lying or unemotional about it. Dissociation is defense mechanism. The attorney then turned back to the young man, and asked him if that changed his opinion. He said it did.
IF…as it appears to me…the case was basically her word against his, and the defense is planning to paint an unemotional witness as a liar….then I potentially helped the prosecution.
What a precarious thing the law is…for both parties…the victim and the accused. On the one hand…imagine that you are the victim. It can be your word against your assailant. What if you are dissociated and unemotional? What if you are the accused? What if you are innocent?
If I could summarize my jury experience, I would have to say, “There are no easy answers.” That and if you get called to jury duty…bring something to read.