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Personalities to Look for When Picking Jurors for Your Drug Case

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When preparing your voir dire questions, and picking a jury in your drug case, knowing which personalities are more likely to be sympathetic to your side can make or break your case. Here are a few characteristics of jurors who are more likely to lean pro-prosecution, or pro-defense, in drug cases. If you’re looking for sample voir dire questions in other areas, check out our book Pattern Voir Dire Questions, by Susan Broome, Ph.D. Over 1700 questions, covering a wide variety of civil and criminal cases, will help you pick the right jurors for your case.

juror characteristics to look for in drug cases

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Some Characteristics of Pro-Prosecution Jurors

Attitudes About Legalization of Marijuana and Other Drugs
Those who strongly oppose the legalization of marijuana for personal or medicinal use are more likely to hold pro-prosecution predispositions in drug cases. Look for individuals who believe probable cause is entirely at the officer’s discretion. Look for individuals who believe drug laws are too lax, more government intervention is required in order to win the war on drugs, and that drug use is immoral. Look for individuals who believe that possessing small amounts of any illegal substance is a serious offense.

Social and Lifestyle Habits
An individual’s social and lifestyle habits can speak volumes about their personal values and world views. Look for potential jurors who:

  • have never experimented with drugs (particularly baby boomers who were teens/young adults during the counter-culture era of the 60s),
  • abstain completely from alcohol (except recovering alcoholics), and
  • avoid socializing in clubs and bars.

Demographics
While demographics are generally not effective predictions for jury selection, there may be some advantage to considering the potential juror’s age, their marital status, and the present age of children. Parents of younger and teenage children are more likely to be prosecution-oriented (unless their teenage child has had legal problems related to drug use). Look for parents, typically in 25-40 age range, with school-age children in the house.

Some Characteristics of Pro-Defense Jurors

The profile of the defense-friendly juror in drug possession cases is essentially an individual who has the absence of the pro-prosecution characteristics or who holds opposite world views.

Attitudes About Legalization of Marijuana and Other Drugs
Defense-predisposed jurors are willing to consider medicinal circumstances in which marijuana should be legal. They may also be open to considering legalization of certain recreational drugs in limited amounts for private use. Look for jurors who are “willing to consider” circumstances/scenarios where legalization of marijuana/other drugs could be legal.

Drug Use History and Social and Lifestyle Habits
Defense-predisposed jurors are more likely to have experimented with/used drugs in the past. They are more likely to engage in regular social drinking and enjoy going to social events where alcohol use is prevalent. Look for those willing to admit having tried marijuana at some point and who report they are not “abstainers.”

Demographics
There is a bimodal age/marital status relationship associated with jurors who are more likely to be defense-oriented in drug possession cases. First, younger single adults (18-25) are more likely to have used recreational drugs and therefore be more tolerant to a drug use defendant. Second, baby boomers whose children are out of the high risk years for drug use (i.e., 10-18) are more likely to be defense-minded (unless outweighed by the other criteria for the pro-prosecution juror).

 

Excerpted from the free eGuide Picking Juries in Drug Cases, by Rick R. Fuentes, Ph.D. Download the full eGuide for more juror personality traits that might help you in your drug case, and sample voir dire questions to help you discover them.

Dr. Fuentes is a founding partner of R&D Strategic Solutions, and he has specialized in jury behavior and decision-making and the evaluation of complex evidence for over 20 years.

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