Maybe We Can Let R2D2 Be The Judge, Too

from the tipping-the-scales dept

With high profile trials, a huge part of the circus is the jury selection, where jury consultants conduct mock trials, focus groups, and extensive background checks, all with the idea to create a jury that is most favorable for each side. It’s a very expensive process, one that is out of reach for most defendants. Well, suprisingly, automation has now hit the art of jury selection, with computer-aided jury picking, by JuryQuest. Using just seven attributes: age, sex, race, education, occupation, marital status, and prior jury service, the service guides trial lawyers towards selecting juries with the best chance of their victory. JuryQuest defendants are acquitted over 50% of the time, which is almost twice the average for defendants with retained lawyers (26%) and nearly three times higher than those with just public defenders (15%). It seems crazy that just seven attributes could have such an affect on the outcome of a trial, but the difference for publicly defended defendants is perhaps most shocking. If automated jury selection becomes more accessible for all defendants, will it be able to close the gap for the defendants that currently stand the most chance of being convicted?

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Comments on “Maybe We Can Let R2D2 Be The Judge, Too”

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DeadlyOats says:

Intellectual Property trouble ahead?

Someone needs to check to see if the makers of JuryQuest have patented their criteria for jury selections.

If that is so, I wonder how that will affect a defendant’s rights to a fair trial? Perhaps a trial lawyer that has chosen not to purchase and use JuryQuest will be locked out of the business, and, because of infringing IP issues, will be forced to use inferior jury sellection criteria or be forced to purchase a license to use the superior jury sellection criteria – even if they don’t use the software?

A Lawyer says:

Correlation does not mean Causation

The increase in not guilty verdicts is more likely an aspect of resources (money) available to the defense attorney rather than software.

And whether or not an attorney has the money to use the software for a trial is probably a very good indicator of how much money that attorney has to spend.

Sadly in the criminal justice system, the amount of money you have to spend matters.

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Does this strike anyone else as sick?”


I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels it’s bad that the focus is shifting away from “are they guilty?” to “how can I make it easier to get them off the hook.” I know that jury selection is supposed to be designed to make sure the peers that are selected are non-biased (impossible, I’d say) and objective. I didn’t know that our “justice” system allowed for the intentional selection of members that are more favorable. Funny, I guess it’s my foolish naivety that makes that sound a little… oh, I don’t know… opposite to what the system is supposed to do?

Joe Smith says:

Re: sickening

“Does this strike anyone else as sick?”

What makes me sick is that a technique like this can work, not that someone is doing it.

What this demonstrates is that arbitrary, random or irrelevant factors play an enormous role in the outcomes of trials.

The legal system resists outside scrutiny of the quality of its product but if this were any other consumer product it would have been put out of business long ago for the shoddy quality of its services.

Dana Tellier says:

The real problem

I think the real problem lies with the fact that most jurors aren’t very knowledgeable about what their real job is, or what “reasonable doubt” really means.

For example, if you look at the Scott Peterson case, the jurors were asked what evidence led them to believe he was guilty… most of them replied that they “didn’t need evidence, he just *looked* guilty”.

THAT makes me far more sick than some software that essentially says “Hey, these people would probably be more likely to give you more of a chance than these other people”.

Daniel (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“and nearly three times higher than those with just public defenders (15%). ”

Is it safe to assume poorer defendants will use public defenders. And is it also safe to say, poorer people are more likely to commit crimes?

It is safe to assume the former, not the latter. Stats show that poor people commit DIFFERENT crimes than well off – not necessarily more.

Statistics DO show that poor people are more likely to be suspected of a crime…

Thomason says:

50% gulity is a statistic, not a result

JuryQuest has borrowed from the ad campaign for some medications – 16% less chance of stroke, 24% more likely to avoid complications, etc. No Defendant is 50% acquitted, you’re either 100% or 0% convicted. In a single case, the odds are what they are – and using 100 cases creates a statistic, not a probability. A study could show that the risk of conviction is greater if a defendant shows up dressed like a thug, than wearing a modest suit and tie; or if he picks his nose, or sits reading Hustler during the trial. Sure, the factors listed are important, but to advertise that a jury selected by those will acquit YOU is overstating the worth of the JuryQuest service.

JM says:

Re: 50% gulity is a statistic, not a result

No Defendant is 50% acquitted…

The statistic says that defendants using this service are over 50% MORE LIKELY to be aquitted. Re-read please.

Unless you can show some evidence that these numbers are false or show numbers which suggest statistical manipulation by the JuryQuest study you’re comment is pointless and has no real value except to flame.

…to advertise that a jury selected by those will acquit YOU is overstating the worth of the JuryQuest service.

Interesting. Nowhere in the article did I read that it WILL aquit anyone. Only that the study shows that people who used the service were MORE LIKELY to be aquitted (hmm…I seem to recall saying that earlier). I suggest you not only re-read the article but that you rethink you’re logical thought process.

Max says:

Violation of due process

The use of JuryQuest in jury selection is a clear and incontrovertible violation of Batson, which prohibits the use of peremptory challenges (and the dismissal of jurors) due to membership in any cognizable group protected by the U.S., Constitution. These groups include groups based on race, gender, political affiliation, religious affiliation, etc. Since JuryQuest relies on exactly these basic demographic characteristics of jurors to inform and guide the issuance of challenges, the use of JuryQuest in or outside of the courtroom is a flagrant violation of Batson and due process.

Norm says:

Re: Violation of due process

JuryQuest provides juror ranking data utilizing several demographic characteristics. JuryQuest is not limited to those mentioned in your comment, nor does it “rely” on either race or gender to provide the user with statistically significant results.

Your opinion seems to be based on invalid or incomplete data. As is usually the case, the resulting conclusion is in error.

Emerson Smith (user link) says:


I am a sociologist who works as a jury consultant. The demographics used in JuryQuest are some of the most predictive of many behaviors and attitudes. Sociologists have been using these for years to explain and predict purchase of consumer products or predisposition to support the death penalty. Unfortunately, these factors only explain a small portion of the variation in behaviors or attitudes. JuryQuest allows the defense attorney to add his or her own intuitive hunches to improve the odds of, for example, a jury voting to send a defendant to prison for life rather than to death.

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