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The Champion

January-February 2017 , Page 20 

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Capital Jury Selection: The Minimum Standards for Effective Counsel

By Natman Schaye

Judges, Lawyers and Other Humans — Courtroom Communication or Lack Thereof

Selecting a jury for a client facing the death penalty presents challenges different from any other criminal or civil case. However, a discussion of capital voir dire must begin with a review of the general communication and comprehension gaps between jurors and legal professionals. Individuals immersed in the justice system too rarely recognize the difficult and unnatural position in which they place jurors.

More than 20 years ago, trial judge Michael Dann observed:

[E]valuating how juries actually function is a strictly empirical matter. We search for answers not in abstract legal theory and not in trial stories told by judges, lawyers, and journalists, but in the results of systematic research.1 

There is no credible argument against this proposition. Regardless, courts doggedly refuse to inquire into whether jurors understand their charges or reach decisions fairly. As the Seventh Circuit con

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