surrendering one's passphrase to authorities

Robert J. Hansen rjh at
Thu Mar 5 03:17:01 CET 2009

David Shaw wrote:
> Indeed, and also (in the US at least), the attorneys for each side
> can (to a limited degree that varies from situation to situation)
> remove people from the "potential juror" list after interviewing them
> (a "Voir Dire" challenge).

Voir dire is the name given to the interview process, not to the
strikings.  A striking can be "for cause" (a juror who says they can't
be impartial, for instance) or for no reason at all in what's called a
"peremptory challenge."

It is unlawful to use peremptory challenges to shape the racial or
religious composition of the jury, but as long as you're not doing that,
you can strike whoever you like for whatever reason you like.

> Frequently, one side or the other will remove a juror with actual
> knowledge about the subject matter being covered in court.  This
> makes sense from their perspective, as they would rather the juror is
> a blank slate, only knowing what the lawyer says on the subject, and
> not bring any of their own knowledge and opinions.

It's even worse than that.

A year ago I was given a jury summons.  The first case, I survived
challenges for cause.  They asked if anyone could describe a millimeter.
I raised my hand, they called on me and I gave them the SI definition.
I was promptly peremptoried.

Plaintiff's counsel didn't just want to avoid people with subject matter
knowledge.  Counsel wanted to avoid anyone who knew anything about basic
physics, and they used the metric system as a test to see who had any
background in physics.

The next trial was a sexual abuse case with some very hideous
particulars.  Defense counsel asked everyone what probability we gave
that her client was guilty.  One woman said 70%, since she was a
schoolteacher and she knew how many layers of bureaucracy were involved
in getting a sex abuse case to trial.  One man said at least 50%, since
otherwise it was a lot of work and taxpayer money for nothing.

I refused to answer the question.  I explained the question had improper
foundations.  Probability is based on prior observations of identical
phenomena.  I didn't know anything about the defendant or the
particulars of his crime, so there was no probability I could assign.
He either did it or he didn't, and I was willing to help determine which
it was -- but I would not attach a probability to his guilt or innocence.

The woman who said 70% and the man who said 50% were both seated on the

I wasn't.

It's true that lawyers will remove a juror with actual knowledge about
the subject matter -- but more than that, lawyers will remove jurors
with actual knowledge.  If you show an ability to think critically and
independently, the lawyers will move heaven and earth to remove you from
the jury pool.

A critical and independent thinker will go their own way in the trial.
That makes them wild cards.  No lawyer wants a wild card in the jury
pool.  They want people who can be led to a conclusion.

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