An inside look at the jury selection process, what each side wants in a juror
We are in the heat of jury selection in the murder trial of officer Jason Van Dyke.
With so much at stake, prosecutors and defense attorneys know it takes just one juror to sway the direction of the verdict.
In a special report, FOX 32’s Anita Padilla goes inside the selection process and looks at what each side wants in a juror.
In a conference room in the loop, we watched as one by one 10 people entered what they were told was a focus group. What they didn't know was they'd be spending the next few hours being questioned as potential jurors in a mock trial for Jason Van Dyke.
Giving instructions upfront is Julie Campanini with Magna Legal Services. For the sake of the mock trial, lawyers Danielle Malaty and Bob Kopka staged arguments from the defense and prosecution. Their goal is to get inside the mind of a juror.
“It's very likely, I think, that both the prosecution and the defense have done jury focus groups, because jury focus groups really help you understand what arguments resonate with people, where your strongest arguments are,” Kopka said.
They find that out through wireless keypads which give real-time feedback to the legal teams. The lawyers can also watch the mock deliberation on screen from a holding room.
And as dozens of real potential jurors enter the courtroom for the Van Dyke case this week, here's what Campanini says they can expect: “A potential juror will be nervous, I’m quite sure, because of the publicity of this case.”
After filling out a questionnaire, each side will get the chance to ask potential jurors follow-up questions.
“Feelings about the Chicago Police Department, about race relations in the country, gun control, any of those issues, it's really whatever the judge allows,” Campanini said.
But it doesn't stop there. Teams can dig into the potential jurors' lives, including handwriting analysis, checking out their social media pages and even driving by their homes.
And in a case where many have seen the video of Laquan McDonald being shot, the judge is trying to work around biases by asking potential jurors if they can be fair. But that could come with a risk.
“There's a lot of things that can come up that jurors just aren't going to recognize in a setting just saying "can you be fair". We all want to be fair. We all want to think we can be fair. But it's difficult sometimes,” Campanini said. “Once they see that video, what's going to kick in? Are they going to have extreme sympathy?”
That's when attorneys might see other clues -- like body language -- which could unintentionally reveal their feelings about the case.
“It involves race, it involves violence, it involves guns, it involves a power differential, it involves sort of social justice happening around the world, so it's really difficult,” Campanini said.
By the way, Van Dyke still has the option for a bench trial where the judge alone would decide his fate.