When preparing for a personal injury trial, it’s easy (and important) to focus on the evidence and testimony that will be presented. But what many personal injury attorneys often forget is a process that is perhaps the most important part of the personal injury trial: picking a jury.
Jury selection has its own very complex set of rules and laws. And while everyone is in theory guaranteed a jury of their peers, that right is balanced with the right of parties to strike jurors, and challenge jurors, with and without cause.
Of course, knowing which jurors to strike is an art form in itself and many books have been written about the topic. Ultimately though, when there is a question of whether a juror should be stricken, the final decision will come down to the trial judge, and his or her decision as to whether the juror should sit or not.
Recent Case Deals With Jury Dispute
A recent case turns on a judge’s decision to keep a juror on the jury panel. A woman was suing for injuries sustained in an automobile accident that occurred when she was rear ended. At trial, the lawyer asked the jurors if there was anything in their life experience that would affect or alter their ability to hear the case and decide it on a neutral basis—a perfectly common and fair question.
One juror said that she had a relative that she felt was wrongly convicted of a crime. Thus, she stated she had lost all faith in the jury system. She stated that she believed that the defendant in the injury case would probably feel like the jury would be there for him, but that she knew that wasn’t the case based on her relative’s conviction. Upon a request to strike that juror, the judge denied it and allowed her to remain.
Appellate Court Rules Juror Should Have Been Stricken
If there is reasonable doubt as to a juror’s neutrality, or where it seems one side is ahead of the other in a juror’s mind, the juror should be stricken. Jurors who have reservations as to the jury system itself can be stricken from a jury panel because jurors must have a state of mind that allows them to impartially hear evidence and decide a case.
With that law in mind, the appellate court determined that the trial court had erred in refusing to strike the jury, and a new trial was declared.
Surely, every injury attorney should strive to strike jurors that may not be helpful to their client, and keep those that may be sympathetic to their client. But pushing too hard to keep jurors that may be contested can end up having an adverse effect, if it later turns out a juror was kept that should have been stricken. An otherwise good verdict can end up overturned on appeal because of jury selection problems.
Personal injury trials can be complex. It’s important to have lawyers that understand the process from start to finish, including the art of jury selection. If you have been in an accident, talk to the Miami personal injury attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. today for a free consultation about your injury case.