The use of shadow juries in child sex cases

Shadow juries are a group of people that sit in the courtroom and watch the trial (or parts of it) and then are debriefed at the end of each day. It helps the defense to tailor its strategy, especially in a long trial or to pick up on issues that only a jury would notice. Any defense attorney who has kept a jury out for four days on a rather simple case knows that feeling of “what did they miss” or “what are they thinking”. Clearly, your perception of the case is not their perception. Besides being biased, you as the defense lawyer is not like the average juror. Your intelligence and experience is far beyond what they possess. Remember the show, Are you smarter than a 5th grader? Those people are your jurors.


Thus, it may be helpful to have a shadow jury. Of course, this does not come cheap as these people will not likely give up their lives for free just to help you out. Nevertheless, websites like Craigslist can help find people that are willing to be a shadow juror for a small amount of compensation. I would want at least three but no more than six. Anything more than six would be too expensive and there is the law of diminishing returns.


The next question is who is going to organize these people and debrief them? Clearly, you as the defense lawyer have enough to do then to hire people, organize them, debrief them, pay them, etc. Someone from your office staff can do all of this but if they are not a lawyer, how will then know how to debrief these people? The other problem is that if they know they are working for the defense, they may be a bias towards your case, especially since you are paying them. Furthermore, it may be hard for them to critique you if they know they are speaking to a member of your office staff. Thus, you may want to hire a criminal defense consultant to handle everything for you. The consultant should not identify which side they are working for, if any side at all. The consultant can then meet with you and help you alter your strategies or hone in on which ones are having an impact. This is the best way to ensure you are getting an honest answer from your shadow jurors.


Because the cost of running an effective shadow jury could run from $1,000 to $1,500 per day on the low end, you may want to only bring them in for the critical parts of the case to minimize expenses. Of course, if money isn’t that much of an issue, you want them there the entire time.

Posted on February 24, 2013, in The Trial Process and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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