In this post, we will provide tips on searching records relevant to vetting jurors. Note that because ethics guidelines regarding the use of social media for jury research vary, we will be concentrating on public and business records.
With only a small fraction of criminal and civil cases ever making it to trial, jury selection might seem like a lost art of the legal profession. Yet it is very much an essential skill for the strategic attorney. Routing out potential jurors who may have difficulty remaining impartial or who have actual bias against your client may make or break your case.
While the rules regarding jury selection vary based on jurisdiction, general principles tend to remain consistent. One such principle is the ability to raise for cause challenges against individual members of the venire. To assert such challenges successfully requires information about the potential jurors. This information may be obtained through a records search.
How can record searches help lawyers vet jurors?
The time required to prepare for trial can be immense. The last thing you want is for that time to be wasted because you’ve agreed to a jury whose members may have a conflict of interest or are incapable of exercising impartiality. In a perfect world, potential jury members would readily volunteer information that would rule them out of the jury pool. However, that is not always the case.
Potential jurors may lie during jury examination, even though providing false information can result in severe penalties. For example, in 2012, a potential jury member in a Massachusetts criminal case lied about his relationship to the parties involved and received a two-year prison sentence. In a 2020 matter, an Ohio man lied about his criminal background both on a jury questionnaire and in court, resulting in a 10-day jail sentence.
Even when potential jurors don’t lie, information can come out that might indicate potential bias. In example, having knowledge of a former employer, or occupation may preclude a member from a jury.
Which records can help lawyers vet jurors?
There are many types of records that lawyers can use to screen juror candidates during the jury selection process. The following are just some examples of information that can assist in the jury selection process.
- Criminal records: Not only will attorneys want to know whether a potential juror has a criminal history, they also will want to know the type of crime in which the individual was involved. For example, an attorney representing the family of a victim killed in a drunk driving accident will likely want to screen potential jurors for anyone with a record of driving under the influence.
- Addresses: A lawyer looking to thin the jury pool can check potential juror addresses to see whether they reside in the proper jurisdiction. In addition, records related to addresses can reveal whether the potential juror used to live with or near anyone involved in the case.
- Familial relationships: Records related to a potential juror’s familial relationships, including spousal relationships, could reveal a connection to someone involved in the matter.
- Employment: Employment records can show whether a potential juror used to work for or with someone involved in the case or if the nature of their job overlaps with details of the case, such as the aforementioned example of the Bureau of Land Management employee.
- Business associates: Like employment records, records related to business associates can bring to light connections with parties involved in the case.
- Vehicle information: Vehicle information can show whether a potential juror and anyone involved in the case ever owned the same vehicle, either concurrently or through a sale from one party to another.
Learn how TLOxp can help research jurors
Locating information relevant to potential jurors is not always an easy task. Internet searches and scanning social media accounts may yield some results, but these methods can be time-consuming. In addition, there’s no telling how up to date online information is, meaning search results could have questionable quality.
Fortunately, there is technology that can help attorneys vet jurors. Solutions like TLOxp® from TransUnion provide lawyers with access to a robust database of actionable information, including public, private and business records that are updated daily. Learn how you can use TLOxp to help you vet potential jurors.