Most juror bias is unconscious, but not all. There is such a thing as a juror with an agenda and a plan. You stand a better chance of recognizing that juror if you know the key phrases of the language he speaks.
Last week I wrote about the dramatic voir dire in the James Seale murder trial in Mississippi, where Mr. Seale is accused of kidnapping and murdering two black teenage boys in 1964. Over the weekend I got a comment to the post, consisting entirely of a short article from a white supremacy web site.
I'm not going to publish the comment or link to the site, but the gist was that white juries should use jury nullification to exonerate white defendants charged with harming African-Americans -- or immigrants, or Communists. All those groups, the writer argued, are plotting to take over the United States, and by that logic it is patriotism to acquit defendants who are doing their part to stop the plot.
The piece was grammatical, with sentence and paragraph structure. It did not use epithets. If its author showed up on your jury panel talking about his job and educational background, there might be nothing to suggest he was unusual. But if your client were black or immigrant or Jewish, you would need to identify this juror, and find a way to strike him even though he wanted to stay.
Learning the language
To do this, you need to recognize the associations in his thinking, even though you might not make those associations yourself. If you've worked on a hate crime case, you'll be familiar with the idea that Southern blacks in 1964, supposed Communists in the 1950s, and immigrants today might be perceived as a united enemy. But if you're not at a point where you can recognize a piece of the white supremacist picture without seeing the whole image, a little research can help a lot. If you can accurately spot clues to a juror's agenda in the web sites or news sources he mentions, the apparently unrelated ideas he acknowledges, the news stories he follows, or the people he admires, you'll be able to explain to the judge why a strike for cause is justified, and strike the juror yourself if that's denied.
When the issue is race or immigration, much of your research has been done for you. The Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Project, formerly called Klanwatch, has one of several web sites gathering information on hate activity.
Business cases too
This isn't just about race trials. Jurors with agendas can show up in cases that have nothing to do with race or crime. If your client or opponent is a business, for example, and it outsources jobs -- or uses foreign factories with poor work conditions, or performs research with animals, or doesn't use unions -- it makes sense to learn how activists on these issues speak and think, even though the case is about the most mundane contract. If you have a tort case, it makes sense to know the language on both sides of the tort reform debate, even though your case isn't about policy. It's all on the Internet, and it won't take long to find.
(Photo by Brian K at http://www.flickr.com/photos/brian9000/138590190/; license details there.)