CBS launched a new show from the apparently forgetful mind of Dr. Phil, that pretends to be about trial consultants. Fiction is great; outright falsehood is not. And in a year in which the American public is being told (correctly, incorrectly, or partially either) that its institutions are rigged – government, financial markets, the media, elections – it is harmful that the public is now also being told that its justice system is rigged. Rigged by a smarmy, cocky, godlike consultant who single-handedly somehow has the power to empanel any jury he wants to achieve any outcome he wants, flouting all laws of procedure, committing crimes, not getting the attorneys who employ him disbarred and on and on. Look, this isn’t like complaining, “That TV surgeon used a clamp instead of forceps,” or a TV mechanic tightening the lugs on a wheel in the wrong order. While annoying, those are errors, not whole-cloth falsehoods that give a dangerously false picture of the legal system.
Join two accomplished trial consultants, myself and Sonia Chopra (ChopraKoonan) as we discuss this show. There might be a little swearing.
Here is a story about a court ordering a jury consultant for an indigent defendant accused of murdering a police officer. According to the article, the court has allocated $60,690 to hire a jury consultant for the defense. I am surprised that more attorneys don't make this request to the court especially in death penalty cases.
For those interested in learning more about using or employing trial consultants in criminal cases involving indigent clients, I recommend viewing the website of Marjorie Fargo of Jury Services Inc who provides a sample of court appointment materials.
According to the news report below, the government retained a jury consultant (Richard Gabriel) to assist them in the Kwame Kilpatrick corruption trial. This is not the first time that prosecutors have retained a consultant to help in the prosecution of a high-profile mayor. A jury consultant was used during the corruption trial of the former mayor of Baltimore, Sheila Dixon. The use of jury consultants by the prosecution raises an interesting question about whether judges should be more willing to approve funds for indigent defendants to hire their own jury consultants, especially since most of the information uncovered by a trial consultant is not subject to the Rules of Discovery. I previously blogged about providing trial consultants for indigent clients here.
Lately, it appears that courts have become more willing to appoint trial consultants for indigent clients in criminal cases. This is definitely a positive development especially in light of the fact that trial consultants are used not only by well-to-do criminal defendants but also prosecutors. Edward Schwartz, author of JuryBoxBlog, has recently written about his experiences serving as a trial consultant in criminal cases. I also recently posted about one of the defendants in the Kwame Kilpatrick corruption trial who requested funds to hire a trial consultant. For those interested in learning more about using or employing trial consultants in criminal cases involving indigent clients, I recommend viewing the website of Marjorie Fargo of Jury Services Inc who provides a sample of court appointment materials.
Unlike legal representation, criminal defendants do not have a constitutional right to a jury consultant. Nonetheless, judges have allowed criminal defense attorneys to hire jury consultants at taxpayer's expense. In the Digital Age, consultants are very helpful in not only screening jurors but also monitoring their online activity. Defense counsel are not alone when it comes to using trial consultants. Prosecutors have also relied on consultants e.g., the corruption trial of Sheila Dixon.
Don't have time to research your jurors online or monitor their Internet activity? Well, the trial consultants at Magna Legal Services are here to help. For $295 they will do both. According to the firm's web site, its Jury Scout will:
create detailed profiles for each individual juror based on their online habits, which include but are not limited to: frequency of updates (in terms of photos, status, and comments), the number of social network profiles each juror has, whether their blogs and profiles are protected (i.e., locked down), the number of online aliases, how much personal content is revealed within public forums, opinions on current events and religion, and if said juror is prone to signing online petitions. By creating a personalized matrix of information for each juror, Jury Scout can predict whether they will pose a threat to the case.
At present, many attorneys and trial consultants perform similar services. However, this is the first time I have seen a trial consulting firm actually specifically advertise such services. The Jury Scout has also generated news in the media.