Before the recent holidays, I found myself approaching yet another DUI trial in San Diego; this time, however, the jury selection process seemed a bit more daunting. Why? Because my criminal trial was to begin two days before the biggest holiday this country celebrates, Christmas.
With so many people eager to be home with family, I wondered how I could distinguish between those jurors who dislike the prosecution for prosecuting a DUI during the holidays, versus those wanting to convict simply because my client is exercising her constitutional rights during their much needed vacation time. I found myself faced with the real possibility that I would have to ask more questions, and keep the prospective jurors longer than usual – just to filter through this holiday circumstance. However, that might lead to even more disgruntled and angry holiday jurors.
I have learned through trial experience, it is ultimately my duty and my job, as a criminal defense attorney, to manage these situations and muster up the courage to ask an angry looking father whether or not he knows anyone in law enforcement, when all he is thinking about is getting those last minute gifts. Or, to ask that eager looking grandmother whether she believes in the three strikes law, when her primary concern is her first Christmas away from her grandchildren. Regardless of the situation, these questions must be asked – whether or not it is the Christmas holiday.
Thus, I rely on a few tips I have collected over the years for choosing the “right” holiday DUI jurors. First, they must be sympathetic to the defense. These people usually admit to drinking more than one drink, especially if they say their drink of choice is beer. These jurors typically will admit to liking country music in front of a crowd of people they do not know. More often than not, these people are smokers, and generally happy people. If I find all these traits in one person, jack-pot!
However, I must be cautious of the wine-drinkers, or those who do not drink at all. Worse yet, I must be cautious of those holiday people who are so unhappy or judgmental, that they make the entire jury panel uncomfortable.
I suppose the path I take is the one I have taken over and over again in criminal defense – the path that gets results – the non-guilty verdict – regardless of the fact, that this is the holiday season. I will stay true to my instincts, and what my experience has taught me. This is true, even though I feel badly that I must ask people to do their civic duty during this time of year for my criminal defense trial. But, hey, it might be better than spending an entire afternoon with the in-laws, right?