Burge trial: Picking the jury

May 24, 2010

The jury pool for the Burge trial will be winnowed on Monday. Dean Polales, who worked as an assistant US Attorney for 21 years and is now a white collar criminal defense attorney at Ungaretti and Harris, offered this rule of thumb in an interview last week: "As a prosecutor I would want to identify jurors who have succeeded in the community playing by the rules, people I get the feeling are law-abiding, rule-abiding, good citizens, and more likely to hold their fellow citizens to that kind of standard. As a defense attorney, I would want someone who is more empathetic and aware of the frailties of human nature and accepting thereof." However, Attorney Flint Taylor, who, with his colleagues in the People's Law Office uncovered much of the scandal and went on to represent a good number of the victims, thinks that in this case, those approaches might be switched around. Prosecutors, he said in an email, "would normally be looking for hard-ass, law-and-order, racially-insensitive, less-educated, pro-police male jurors." In this case, however, Burge's attorneys "will be looking for these types," while the government "will need jurors (women?) who will empathize, at least to some degree, with the victim/survivors and believe that torture is wrong and that lying about it is not okay." To aid both sides in sizing up each member of the pool, the potential jurors were required to fill out a 30 page questionnaire, a not unusual procedure in a high profile case. "Questionnaires help because people will write down what they won't say in a courtroom," attorney Andrea Lyon told me. Lyon, who represented former Governor George Ryan and is the Director of the Center for Justice in Capital Cases at DePaul School of Law, was also one of the attorneys for Madison Hobley. (Burge's answers in Hobley's civil suit are the basis of the government's indictment for perjury and obstruction of justice). "Ask them, "ËœWhat do you think of defense lawyers?' and they will say, "ËœScum,' which they will never say in court"¦.In the Ryan case, jurors were asked if they knew anything about the case. Some said, "ËœYes, he is guilty.'" But often the answers don't yield such a definitive portrait, but provide only a sense of who the person might be. "What you are doing is making an educated guess," Lyon said. "It is really more art than science."
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