As jury selection begins, what do both sides look for? – Twin Cities

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In the most highly anticipated trial to take place in Minnesota in some time, one key element still remains up in the air: the jury.

With the trial of the St. Anthony police officer charged in the death of Philando Castile opening Tuesday, the prosecution and defense will begin the arduous and often time-consuming task of deciding who will compose the 12-member panel that will decide their side’s fate.

Philando Castile, left, and Jeronimo Yanez

The process may be more art than science, as the analysis applied by the attorneys can depend on a litany of factors, including the background of the defendant and the alleged victim, the nature of the charges in the case, and each side’s trial strategy, legal experts say.

Some experts reached for this article went so far as to say superstitions built on attorneys’ past wins and losses can even make their way into the equation.

“It may be that an attorney doesn’t like blue shirts because they had a bad experience with a jury that had a lot of people wearing blue shirts,” said Philip Stinson, a criminologist at Bowling Green State University in Ohio who studies arrests of police.

Philip M. Stinson, associate professor in the Criminal Justice Program at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. (Courtesy photo)

Regardless of what’s considered, legal experts agree that jury selection could play an important role in a successful trial strategy for either side in the case against officer Jeronimo Yanez.

The St. Anthony police officer is charged with second-degree assault and two counts of dangerous discharge of a weapon in the fatal shooting of Castile during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights last July 6. He has pleaded not guilty.

His trial starts Tuesday in Ramsey County District Court. Jury selection is expected to last through Friday, with opening arguments expected to take place next week.

“Jury selection is highly important in any case. But in cases like this, it’s tremendously important because who your jury is determines what they are inclined to believe,” said David Harris, a University of Pittsburgh law professor and expert in police use-of-force. “It will be critical for each side to select jurors who can, number one, be open-minded and impartial… and two, believe their (side’s) version of what happened.”

THE SELECTION PROCESS

Diane Wiley thinks “jury de-selection” is a more accurate description of the process. She is president of the National Jury Project/Midwest. The organization consults with attorneys and courts about issues of bias and prejudice.

“You are not picking a jury; you are picking people you are going to excuse,” Wiley said. “There usually isn’t one question that makes you say ‘That person would be horrible…’ People are much more complicated than that… So the lawyers are saying to themselves as they look at the whole pool, ‘OK, which are the worst five people here that I absolutely don’t want.’ 



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