I'm one of those guys, you know the ones who actually like to talk. Who as my kids say talks to anyone and everyone. I generally like people, and am a junior psychologist of sorts. Maybe it comes from my mother or just the fact that I'm happy to be able to talk at all. One of the better things about liking to talk to people is what you can hear. People when they open up tell you exactly how they feel.
Learning to be a Better Defense Attorney Begins with Listening to the Viewpoint of Assistant District Attorneys (prosecutors)
It's nice to hear a prosecutor's perspective on different cases. Nice to know how, and what they're thinking. Sometimes it's so at odds with what a defense attorney thinks about the same thing. Given an opportunity many ADAs will share openly and honestly about cases.
First Place of Defense Lawyer Prosecutor Agreement: Jury Trials Can Be a Big Suck
We do all agree on one thing: Jury trials are a big deal. It's like going to war. You have to know what you're investing. Lots of time, energy, and money go into a trial. Anyone that feels otherwise is either one of those delusional types or just likes to waste people's time, energy, and money. There are quite a few attorneys that dare I say fall into both categories.
I'm more a pragmatist. What is truly in my client's best interests? Does this serve my client or merely my own ego? Believe me the large majority of times that I want a trial, would actually love a trial, it is not in my client's best interests.
There is Hell to Pay for an Unwanted or Unnecessary Trial
We may have a great defense but we also may have a judge that will make every single step we take painful. This same judge and prosecutor if we ultimately lose will take it out not on me but on my client. This wrath will be cloaked in many reasons why they deserve the full weight of the court and of justice but believe me when I say it's retribution for the trial.
Even with all that said, so what's really involved with getting a jury into the box.
Trials Begin with Picking a Jury
Remember that of the 6,200 plus little town and villages courts dotted over the landscape of the great state of New York many are run by part-time clerks and part-time judges. That said if there is to be a jury trial, it begins with the clerk. Judges and their clerks have to work closely together to ensure that all the checks, boxes, and balances all align. There is no bigger deal than a jury trial. Everyone is watching and everything is being recorded. Being fair, impartial, and unbiased in these low population (tight knit) towns is no small feat.
STEP ONE: The clerk must Summon the Prospective Jurors by contacting the Commissioner of Jurors Office of that county.
Every county in New York State has a Commissioner of Jurors Office which will administer all jury needs, this includes the jury needs of every town and village Court.
Generally speaking they will need to begin with a Full Jury Venire of anywhere from 45 to 50 people to get down to 6 jurors and 3 alternates. Why so many people? We need to begin with a lot of people because so many people will not be able to serve for medical reasons, family reasons, religious reasons, and employment reasons.
Not Everyone is the Perfect Juror for a DWI Case
Even after all of that we will go through what is called Voir Dire to ask the jurors questions about their ability to serve on this jury fairly and impartially. This jury will be hearing evidence on a DWI or DWAI drugs case?
Do they have any preformed prejudices or beliefs that would not allow them to just weigh the evidence? Not everyone is the perfect juror for every jury trial. Some people are great jurors but not on every type of case. In their past history they may have had run ins with the justice system, with drunk drivers, with alcoholic husbands, with drug addicts, or with their own children or family members that have struggled with drugs and/or alcohol.
The difficulties with getting a fair and impartial DWI or DWAI drugs jury pool is that many people will hide, will deny, and will even perjure themselves before revealing their own demons. Problems with drugs and alcohol are so prevalent in our society.
Just jury selection or more de-selection on a DWI or DWAI drugs case can take a full day or more. It takes just that long to allow people to finally open up. I have seen those that were convicted of DWI manslaughter and spent years in prison sit in the jury for pool for hours before raising a hand.
"Excuse me I don't think I can be fair and impartial." "I killed someone while DWI about 19 years ago." Another hand goes up, "I run a church group that is against all drinking but I still feel I can be fair and impartial." Another hand goes up, "my brother died of a drug overdose."
Every single person that has a strong charge against drugs and/or alcohol must be screened. As we say "void dired." Next blog post:
VOIR DIRE in a DWI Case