You're a federal prosecutor in Chicago, starting a trial against a Yale-educated, African-American consulting firm executive who used his firm's payroll software to add $68,000 to his paychecks over four months in 2000. The defendant claims he meant to pay the money back.
The jurors file in, and you take notes as the judge asks them questions. Which do you keep, and which do you strike? Seriously, try it:
Juror 9 was a 39-year-old single Hispanic man from Berwyn, with no children. He worked for five years at a cardboard-box factory, and before that drove a forklift for eleven years. He lived with his retired parents. He received a GED and was attending heating and air-conditioning classes at Morton College. . . . Juror 9’s answer to Question 13 (“What are your hobbies and spare time activities?”) was: “going to scool for a carrer.”
Juror 27 was a 39-year-old married African-American woman from the south side of Chicago, with one child. She had a diploma in diesel mechanics from the American Diesel Institute and had taken one year of business courses at Chicago State University. She had worked for sixteen years as a bus service supervisor for the Chicago Transit Authority. Juror 27 explained during questioning, “I fix a lot of buses.”
Juror 1 was a 31-year-old single Hispanic woman with no children, from the northwest side of Chicago. . . . She had a GED education with some college courses in accounting, and had attended a vocational banking school. She worked as a postal worker for four years. During in-court voir dire, she disclosed that her aunt was a police officer for twelve years in the Chicago Police Department, Narcotics Division. Juror 1 was a victim of a crime—she had a chain stolen from her neck. Her brother, for reasons unknown to her, was under house arrest at a prior time. She also testified on behalf of a defendant in a statutory rape case. The testimony was more than ten years earlier and involved the age of the alleged victim. She said that she could be fair to all sides involved in the case.
Juror 13 . . . had an MBA from the University of Chicago and had worked as a product manager and consultant for two cosmetics companies. She also had lived in several places before coming to Chicago, including St. Paul, Minnesota; St. Louis, Missouri; Paris, France; New York, New York; and Bangkok, Thailand. . . . She had a brother who had been a police officer for 12 years and a friend who had recently joined the United States Air Force Judge Advocate General Corps.
Learn how the real prosecutors made these calls and many more in the Seventh Circuit's U.S. v. Stephens opinion today. In the course of deciding (and denying) a Batson challenge, the court evokes the swirling details and doubt of real-life voir dire better than a lot of legal fiction does. You get a profile of every juror in the venire, what the prosecutors' notes about them said, how they rated each one and why.
Test your instincts against the prosecutors, and against the majority (Judge Kanne, joined by Judge Posner) and dissenting (Judge Rovner) opinions. While you're at it, try Elliott Wilcox's two-pen voir dire tip from Winning Trial Advocacy Techniques Blog. By the end of any voir dire, your notes will be a sea of scribbles, and you'll wish you'd used this simple way to make the important stuff jump out.
(Photo by Kalandrakas at http://www.flickr.com/photos/eelssej_/532804210/; license details there.)