One of the unique opportunities of being an intern in a prosecutor’s office is the distinct possibility of handling a jury trial. I was to have my first jury trial this Monday, but it was unfortunately pushed back until mid July. I anxiously await the chance to put the materials I have prepared to the test.
Matters regarding the jury are now my concern every day. What will they believe? What won’t they? What can I say in front of the jury? What will get me a mistrial? Jury concerns have recently reached a new level of tedium. I am drafting a motion to exclude some evidence, and I was struck with the question of whether a jury is a “they” or an “it.” As in “the jury said they would not go to the beach,” or “the jury said it would not go to the beach.” Tense agreement and legal entities is a common grammar mistake regarding courts, i.e., a court is an “it,” not a “they,” which can be particularly confusing when appeals courts have multiple judges, and just seem, logically to be a “they,” not an “it.” An appeals court is an “it,” and after consulting with more than one individual in my office, we decided the same goes for juries.
I recently received an unexpected opportunity regarding juries – the opportunity to serve on one. An eligibility survey came in the mail yesterday. I see this as a double-edged sword. On one hand, assuming I am not almost immediately the subject of a peremptory challenge, I could see the inner workings of the “black box” that is a jury. On the other, I will loose precious time that could be spent at my internship, thinking about how to argue to a jury from a lawyer’s perspective. Obviously, I have to serve if called, but I am not sure at this point whether I want to serve or not. Irrespective, I would probably get struck immediately, if I were to get into the voir dire (where the petit jury is decided by the parties to a trial). I am a law student, work in a prosecutor’s office, and worked in a civil law firm. If I were trying a case and had to choose to strike me or not, I would strike me, for risk that I would sway the jury. We will see if this actually happens.