Trial by Jury Assignment: Livingston County Felony Assault Case

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The jury selection process is an opportunity for prosecutors and defense attorneys alike to leverage their case before a trial begins. Through jury selection, attorneys can detect bias in potential jurors and attempt to obtain jurors who will be most favorable to their arguments. In a case study of a felony assault trial in Livingston County, Michigan, it will be demonstrated that a prosecution-friendly jury can be selected by preventing candidates from prior convictions from being selected and identifying jurors who will be sympathetic to the victims.

On October 2, 2013, the Livingston Daily reported on the upcoming trial of Douglas William McComb charged with felonious assault for pointing a weapon at his neighbor’s daughter and her two friends (Court Docket, 2013, para. 1). Though the specific court date is still being determined, prosecutors have charged the defendant with three counts of felonious assault for pointing a Marlin .30-30 rifle at the teenage victims (2013, para. 2). Further, it was determined that McComb was under the influence during the incident and that his blood-alcohol content was tested at 0.174 when he was contacted by police (2013, para. 4).

The process of jury selection in Livingston County is typical of the process in other states. The jury selection process is outlined by Michigan law and requires that citizens be selected at random to serve on upcoming juries (Jury Service, para. 3). A computer program that located individuals through their driver’s license is used to generate a list of individuals who will be issued a summons to appear in court for voir dire (para. 3). During the jury selection process, jury candidates will be provided with a questionnaire that assesses their potential biases in the case. Questions attempt to determine whether the potential juror has a relationship with any of the parties in the case, whether they have pre-held opinions on the case, or whether they have deeply held attitudes that would bias their assessment of the facts of the case (Model Civil Jury Instructions, 2012, para. 2-3). During voir dire, potential jurors may be eliminated by the judge if he or she finds a candidate unacceptable for jury duty for a valid reason (2012, para. 5). Further, the prosecution and defense has a limited number of opportunities to excuse jurors for no given reason (2012, para. 5). For this reason, voir dire gives attorneys a valuable opportunity to eliminate unfavorable jurors and tilt the composition of the jury in their favor.

Taking the position of the prosecution, two recommendations will be made for the jury selection process. First, the prosecution should attempt to prevent candidates with prior assault convictions from being appointed to the jury. Because this case is based on witness testimony, jurors with previous experiences being prosecuted would be “nightmare” jurors for because they would be more critical towards the prosecution’s efforts to meet its burden of proof. Further, a juror who is typically skeptical in their reliance on witness testimony would be a “dream” juror for the defense because it enables the defense to place a sense of faulty recollection upon the prosecution’s account of events.

However, the prosecution can benefit by selecting jurors who will be sympathetic to the victims of this crime. A challenge that the prosecution faces is that there is little physical evidence that the victim actually brandished his own gun since police arrived on scene after the incident. Because the prosecution must rely on the testimony of the teenage girls key evidence that demonstrates the guilt of the client, members of the jury must be inclined to believe the victims in the case. Jurors who may be more inclined to believe the testimony of the victims include parents of teenage girls or young women who may be threatened by the defendant’s action. By selecting these ideal jurors and using voir dire to eliminate jurors who might entertain the defendant’s innocence, the prosecution can increase the changes of securing a conviction.

References

“Court docket: Man accused of pointing gun at trio heads to trial”. (2013, October 2). LivingstonDaily.com. Retrieved from http://www.livingstondaily.com

“Jury service”. (n.d.). Livingston County. Retrieved from http://www.livgov.com/courts/circuit/admin/Pages/Jury_Service.aspx

“Model civil jury instructions”. (2012). Michigan Courts. Retrieved from http://courts.mi.gov/Pages/default.aspx