A Lawyer on the Jury: Benefit or Risk?
Jurors have been sworn in for the Roger Clemens trial: twelve jurors and four alternates.
The Washington Post National Journal published an article yesterday that hits on a few things counsel learned about the jurors during voir dire. Of course, the article does not address every single nugget shared by each of the empaneled jurors, nor does it offer any insight as to why one side or the other felt the juror was an appropriate juror for this case. I’m sure the attorneys had their reasons, but there was one juror that caused me to stop and wonder why neither side utilized a strike.
Here’s what the Washington Post reported:
“Seat 4: Female, 55, yoga teacher and lawyer. Says she’s not a huge baseball fan. Would recommend against steroid use, saying, ‘We tend to be vegetarian. We don’t encourage the use of artificial hormones.’ Worked at U.S. attorney’s office in Portland, Oregon, while in law school nearly 30 years ago. Says U.S. drug laws are a bit ‘heavy-handed.'”
What’s the risk-benefit analysis in seating a licensed attorney on the jury panel? Did she make it on the panel because of double-strikes? Did both of the parties find her acceptable enough to keep? Or, did one side run out of strikes?
Team USA is probably comfortable having someone who seemingly lives such a healthful lifestyle. Yoga. Vegetarian. Her diet likely includes organic and hormone-free foods, which might cause her to frown upon the practice of steroid use. On the other hand, she might also question the validity of the allegation and think, “It doesn’t make sense that a stellar athlete would intentionally inject poison into this body.” Remember, the government has to prove that he knew the injections contained steroids. If her perception of the issue is the former, it benefits Team USA; if it’s the latter, it’s a risk.
Her comment that United States drug laws are “a bit heavy-handed” is a plus for Team Clemens. They would benefit from seating jurors with a predisposed belief that drug laws are too strict, as this could impact views on the merit and efficacy of the Congressional hearings and the perjury trial itself. And let’s remember this case involves the use of steroids— we’re not talking about meth, heroin or crack cocaine, which are much more offensive to the general public. If Clemens is ultimately found guilty, it could also affect her views towards punishment and cause her to be more lenient than the government would like. Seems to me, there is no up-side to Team USA on this issue.
This juror is a licensed attorney. It’s unclear whether she is currently practicing, but her experience working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office is nothing to sneeze at. I’d definitely want to know more about the job situation and her perceptions of prosecutors. Either party could benefit from having an attorney on the panel, but in my not-so-humble opinion, both sides are taking a very big risk. Make no mistake: this juror will be a leader in the deliberation room. No matter which way she leans, she will be perceived as a legal expert by her fellow jurors. She will have an enormous influence on the others regarding interpretations of the jury charge, legal issues and burden of proof. And unless she’s a complete wing-nut, the group will likely pay close attention to her understanding and interpretation of the facts and issues they failed to completely grasp. Unless she intentionally takes a back seat during deliberations, this juror will be a very influential voice– whether she intends to be or not.
Keep or strike? It’s a decision best made on a case-by-case basis after evaluating the potential make-up of the seated panel. Does the potential benefit outweigh the risk? When in doubt, strike.