Forensic Psychology and Jury Selection

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Modern criminal trial practice demands that the law as an academic discipline can not exist in a vacuum; rather the contrary, the law must be viewed as an overriding set of concepts which need to be viewed in conjunction with other academic disciplines (Carson & & Bull, 2003). This is particularly true when it comes to jury choice in criminal trials where the law has actually been combined with forensic psychology.

This essay will discuss the policy underlying the incorporation of forensic psychology into official criminal proceedings, the precise function of the forensic psychologist in jury choice, and what kinds of juror risk elements are of particular interests to prosecutors and defense lawyer.

Forensic Psychology and the Law If the purpose of the legal procedure is the discovery of fact, and the assurance of justice, then it is necessary that legal procedures help with these goals. Jury choice, the research study has shown, has contributed to lots of miscarriages of justice in criminal cases; undoubtedly, one scholar has pointed out that

In the incidence of capital cases, the U.

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S. Supreme Court has actually recognized what research study has actually long revealed: Jurors often make sentencing choices prematurely, and they often base their decisions on their individual responses to the accused, their confusion about the guidelines of law, and their absence of comprehending regarding their own function and obligations (Schroeder, Guin, Pogue & & Bordelan, 2006). As a result of this popular data, efforts have been made to offer much better jury selection procedures.

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This has involved a multidisciplinary method in which lawyers, both district attorneys and defense lawyer, have actually kept the services of forensic psychologists in order to make much better decisions throughout voir dire. On the one hand, it is hoped as a matter of sound public law that smart jurors will be chosen and that reality and justice will prevail. One the other hand, the potential for abuse of the criminal justice system exists because prosecutors and defense lawyers might use the juror profiles prepared by the forensic psychologists in order to win their case instead of to guarantee a neutral kind of justice.

Forensic Psychology and Jury Selection Generally speaking, a forensic psychologist is enlisted in criminal trials in order to make psychological assessments about individuals and a certain set of facts underlying a particular type of criminal case. Jan Mills Saeth, a jury consultant who works with forensic psychologists in order to conduct voir dire on behalf of clients in criminal cases, has stated that “Jury selection includes helping the trial team eliminate risky jurors, and I help develop a juror profile, voir dire questions, and jury questionnaires. (“Behavioral Profiling: A Panel of Experts,” 2007).

Generally speaking, therefore, the fundamental purpose of the forensic psychologist is to identify potentially risky jurors. What constitutes a risk depends on who the forensic psychologist is representing and whether the nature of the particular criminal allegations. Risk refers to some factor or set of factors which might predispose a potential juror to making certain types of assumptions, to harboring certain types of bias, or to in some way being psychologically disinclined to vote in favor of the forensic psychologist’s client.

There are numerous tools employed by forensic psychologists in order to assess a juror’s risk factors during the jury selection process. These tools may include written questions, oral questions posed by an attorney after consultation with the forensic psychologist, and other non-verbal clues. The totality of this information is collected and the forensic psychologist then constructs a series of juror profiles which the attorney can then review in order to decide which jurors to retain and which jurors to challenge or dismiss.

One of the difficulties is the fact that, in criminal trials, prosecutors and defense attorneys are zealous adversaries. They are thus required to seek to present their case in the light most favorable to their respective clients; to this end, as is relevant to this paper, the prosecutors and the defense attorneys are interested in jurors whom will be the most receptive to their particular version of the facts, whom are most likely to be swayed by certain facts and witnesses, and whom are most likely to rule in their favor (Tsushima & Anderson, 1996).

A prosecutor will seek jurors that possess some psychological tendency to agree with the case in general, to sympathize with law enforcement or a particular type of victim, or some other type of bias that supports their case. Psychological traits favored by many prosecutors include a trust or confidence in authority figures, a generalized conception that the American criminal justice system is fair and reasonable, and a psychological tendency to agree with majority opinions.

A defense attorney will be concerned with similar issues; however, the defense will also want to choose jurors whom possess a different set of psychological traits. More specifically, a defense attorney will seek individuals that distrust rather than trust authority figures, that question more than acquiesce to majority opinions, and that demonstrate strong feelings of sympathy or empathy. Conclusion In the final analysis, while forensic psychology can be enormously useful in predicting juror behavior, it can also be misused if prosecutors and defense attorneys do not place professional ethics above the winning of criminal cases.

The goal of jury selection ought to be the selection of a jury which will weigh evidence objectively and critically without falling back on extraneous information in order to render a verdict. Forensic psychologists can contribute meaningfully to the criminal justice system, but it is necessary to make sure that their psychological insights are not used by unscrupulous prosecutors and defense lawyers to pervert truth and justice.

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Forensic Psychology and Jury Selection. (2016, Oct 17). Retrieved from

Forensic Psychology and Jury Selection
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