Riverside Domestic Violence Blogs from January, 2016

Judge Gavel

Picking a jury in criminal cases is a strange thing. Most people think your client did something wrong; his presumption of innocence mythical at best. We (the defense attorneys) are the people who are defending "those" people they believe did something wrong, and therefore are only slightly less culpable than the people we defend. Combine that situation with a domestic violence case and the people in the juror pool can be borderline hostile to you when you inquire about whether they can be fair. It is the most awkward part of a case for me personally. I'm not big on small talk, pretending I can get to know a person in 15 minutes or less, and I myself don't like to be singled out in a crowd to speak so I don't like to do that to other people. Opening statements, cross examination, and closing arguments are much more natural to me than the juror selection stage. How many people are really going to come out and tell you that they want to hang your client?

In order to neutralize this tangible hostility in domestic violence cases, I jump right in and let them know that neither I nor my client agrees with domestic violence. Next I let them know that neither I nor the DA agrees with people being falsely accused of domestic violence. This helps level the playing field with regards to any hostility against my client.

In addition to some of the standard topics such as the presumption of innocence and proof beyond a reasonable doubt, I delve into the double standard we have in society regarding domestic violence cases. I ask them about this double standard. Can men ever be victims of domestic violence with the woman being the aggressor? Is it ever ok for a man to defend himself against a woman who is attacking him? We have all heard that men are not to hit women. But does that give women the right to hit men? Do women who are surprised, shocked, or indignant when a man defends himself, become victimized? Do you think some women in these situations play the victim? These are complicated, delicate issues that have to be discussed. However, make no mistake - the law has no double standard.

Touching someone in a rude or angry manner, no matter how slight (the touching does not have to cause pain or injury) is assault, battery, and domestic violence. The majority of people do not realize this simple legal truth. You can defend yourself against this touching, whether done by a man or woman, so long as the actions you take are reasonable. These issues must be explored in jury selection. Many times you will find people who feel that a man can never defend himself against a woman.

At some point during the process, you realize that you do not "pick juries". There is not enough time to adequately get to know people that intimately. Rather, you do your best to draw out the people you don't want. You eliminate them, keep the rest, and hope for the best. Besides, the jurors who clearly are favorable to your client will be kicked off by the DA anyway. So dismiss the potential jurors that you believe would be beneficial to the DA, the hostile jurors, and anyone you have a nagging feeling about and you are one step closer to a not guilty verdict.