Selecting, Seating, and Charging the Jury

Scott Bair, Ohio State University

After all the classwork and preparation for the mock trial, finding jurors is an important task. Our mock trials are held on the next to last Saturday of the quarter and take 6-7 hours. I wanted to enlist fellow students as jurors to help advertise the course but it is not easy to find 6-8 students willing to get up early on a Saturday morning and participate in an all day mock trial. As enticement, I provide the jurors with breakfast and lunch and took orders of their preferred food. I also went to the local Kinko's and ordered large buttons with the words 'MOCK TRIAL JUROR' on them for the students to keep. (These are shallow measures but they make me feel like I'm trying and the students seem to get a kick out of a faculty member attending to their food and beverage wishes.) I advertise for potential jurors in the campus newspaper and with fliers placed in the History, Political Science, and Pre-Law programs and make an announcement in classes in these departments. Feel free to download (Microsoft Word PRIVATE FILE 27kB Sep11 08) a copy of my shameless advertisement. Getting jurists takes some work.

I've had good luck finding jurors. Some jurors have been civil engineers. Others have been chemists. Most are English and History majors. All are curious. Most are women. Many are honors students. One was an agricultural engineer who worked in the livestock pens and milked 18 cows early in the morning of my first mock trial! I suspect that our juries have been some of the highest functioning juries in the history of the State of Ohio in terms of intellect. As desired by our court system, however, they do not represent a cross section of our community. As in our state and federal court systems, the mock trial jurors cannot take notes or discuss the case during lunch or during breaks. They must rely solely on their group memory and community values to determine which, if any, of the defendants is liable.

One of the natty issues during the Woburn Toxic Trial was the wordiness of the interrogatory questions written by Judge Skinner and given to the jury as a means to elicit details of their findings. To avoid this, we have deliberately not used the interrogatories from the real trial and have written our own simplified questions. These questions are given to the mock trial jury when it is charged by the judge. The jurors then are lead from the courtroom to a nearby room to select a foreperson and deliberate. In this room I have sodas and snacks. Our juries typically take 30-45 minutes to reach a verdict. During this time, the mock trial participants partake in refreshments and shatter about their triumphs and defeats. The judge brings the jury back into the courtroom and the jury foreperson announces the verdict after showing it to the judge.

The the announcement, I typically thank all the people involved and enable those participants not in my class to leave (judge, stenographer, photographer, but not the jurors). Then the jurors, class, and I have about a 30-minute debriefing during which the jurors tell us what they found believable and what they found extraordinary.