Jury Research Key in Famous Cases

In Colorado, Kobe Bryant could face up to life in prison if convicted of sexual assault. His attorneys explored moving his case to a different county in pretrial motions. But the judge said he was not inclined to grant the defense's request, saying the extensive pretrial publicity "diminishes the remedy of a change of venue."

‘Ideal’ Juror Myths and Misconceptions

Experts say there are some commonly held perceptions about what kind of people make the best jurors in rape and murder cases.

Crime victims, especially people who have lost a family member to homicide, are regarded as bad jurors in murder cases — at least from the defense's standpoint. Parents are seen as good jurors for the prosecution in kidnapping cases, on grounds that they are more likely to convict.

But stereotypes can cut both ways, for instance with gender in rape cases. When asked about what kind of jury they would want if they were defending Kobe Bryant in his sexual assault case, two veteran defense attorneys gave very different answers.

"What you don't want are women on the jury. You don't want feminists or those who read Ms. magazine," said Fischetti, reasoning that women would perhaps be more sympathetic towards Bryant's accuser, the alleged rape victim. "You don't want mothers who may have young daughters."

But Sherman said just the opposite.

"The only thing I know for sure is I want women on the jury," he said. "In a consent rape case, where the actions of the alleged victim seem to go against or are contrary to common sense or what people would normally do, it's been found that women can be very harsh, very critical and hard on the accuser. They say things like, 'How could she have done that? I never would have done that in that situation. My daughter never would have done that.' "

Such discrepancies hint at why some jury consultants caution lawyers against over-generalizations when picking their juries. Above all else, the consultants advise, lawyers should get to know the individual jury pool and its biases and put their own personal uninformed perceptions aside — just like a panel of jurors.

"There are lots and lots of myths about what makes a good jury and a bad jury," said Vinson. "I would advise those involved in the Kobe Bryant and Scott Peterson cases not to fall for or subscribe to the stereotypes. You can really do your client a disservice by clinging to the aphorisms and stereotypes that may or may not be true. And your client — Kobe in the form of his career and Peterson with his life — will be the one who pays the price."

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