“What Happens Behind Closed Doors”
Jury consultant and body language expert Susan Constantine knows firsthand what it’s like to wait in limbo while 12 jurors determine the fate of their client facing the death penalty. With over a dozen death penalty cases under her supervision as a jury consultant, this is the most stressful stage of the case. The waiting game!
Constantine says, “most people think attorneys select jurors, when in fact attorneys de-select jurors that they view as detrimental to their client case. In a death penalty case, jurors are drilled with questions to find hidden bias, personal agenda, attitudes, opinions, and previous experiences that may reveal the predisposition of the juror’s thoughts and feelings about the defendant or the facts in the case.” Jurors are generally questioned individually to determine their viewpoints on the death penalty. In order to serve as a juror in a death penalty case, one must be in favor of the death penalty at some level, thereby, jurors are more pre-disposed as authoritarians than egalitarians, historically not favorable statistics for the defendant.
After closing arguments, the alternates are excused, but left in a holding pattern at a location in case one of the juror’s is excused for some reason. The 12 jurors are given a verdict form with the judge’s instructions. The jurors must appoint a foreperson who will be the voice for the group and render the completed verdict form to the courts clerk after deliberation. The jury must render a unanimous vote otherwise a case can be declared a mistrial. After selecting a foreperson, jurors may opt to take a vote first to see how close they in their verdict. This is a starting point, but keep in mind, there are NO RULES as to how the jury chooses to deliberate with one exception, they must follow the judge’s instructions. Other than that, the jury may ask questions through a written and signed note by the foreperson, and given to the judge to answer.
In the Arias case, the jurors have access to all of the evidence, tapes, photos, etc… that were introduced at trial that is marked as an exhibit. The jurors may examine the evidence to help determine what happened the night Travis Alexander was killed.
It only takes one juror who has reasonable doubt that Jodi Arias is innocent to hang a jury. “I have learned never say never because it really is a crap shoot behind closed doors. Two cases in particular that I was retained were due to a retrial, one having been tried four times.”
Here are some interesting facts on how one or two jurors can create the majority affect and sway the vote one way or another to ultimately determine the guilt or innocence.