Saturday, January 19, 2008

Professionals on juries

It used to be common for states to exempt professionals -- doctors, lawyers, clergy, enineers -- from jury service. Now it is common to have them on juries. It's perceived as fair in some ways: everyone has to serve, and juries are more representative. But there's a risk that a professional will sway fellow jurors during deliberations, bringing in outside knowledge -- in effect, giving testimony that is not susceptible to cross-examination or refutation during argument.

For a discussion, see Michael B. Mushlin, Bound and Gagged: The Peculiar Predicament of Professional Jurors, 25 Yale L. & Pol'y Rev. 239 (2007). Prof. Mushlin presents results of a survey of jury consultants, who report that they often see cases where a professional on the jury makes a difference.

He proposes increased challenges for cause -- e.g., if an engineer is in the jury pool for a case involving bridge construction. But, once a professional is on the jury, he proposes that they not be given special instructions not to use their expertise. Restrictive instructions unduly interfere with the deliberative process, he says.

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