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Jury Whisperer: A Live 5 Investigation

Source: AP Source: AP
CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) -

On Wednesday, we expect the jury to be seated in the case of former North Charleston officer Michael Slager who's accused of shooting Walter Scott last year as he was running away from the officer.

But tonight, we know the Slager defense team has a jury consultant. He is an expert in jury analysis and is helping pick the jury.

He is Columbia-based consultant, Carey Crantford, according to Slager's attorney, Andy Savage.

If you were in the Michael Slager jury pool, you might be shocked  how much lawyers know about you. 

Your television habits, even the magazines you read are important if you land in a jury box. 

Trial lawyers may think they have convincing arguments based on the law, but unless the jury understands the points made in open court, those arguments may not win the case.

Now, many lawyers rely on the help of jury consultants. 

Jury Science, the theme of the new CBS hit television show, is not just Hollywood fiction. Psychology, has joined law. 

Jury Science emerged from market research, what makes us choose the cars or gadgets we buy.

 Attorneys hire experts who use the same principles, researching what makes the jury tick. 

“If you know what matters to jurors sooner, you can apply it to the case and you have a much better outcome, so you’re not fishing around,” said Mark Calzaretta, a jury consultant.

In the O. J. Simpson case, Marcia Clark apparently ignored the jury consultant’s advice.

Scott Pimley worked the case, supervising data entry on the 300 jury pool questionnaires. 

"Some people tried to get on the jury," he said.“If you’re on the case of the century, the trial of the century, then you have something potentially interesting to say and some people might see that as a meal ticket.”

But other jury members may not want their names known for safety reasons

The jury pool in the Simpson case was not good for the prosecution according to Pimley.

How do you land in a jury pool? 

If you’re a registered voter, or have a valid driver’s license or ID, are over 18 and a citizen, you could be called for jury duty.

But jury consultants say their job doesn’t stop at jury selection. It’s much deeper, figuring out the jury mind-set using similar people. 

Pimley said they research people  who are similar to the people who are likely to be on the jury.

Calzaretta said, “Early on, I’m figuring out, this is what’s important, this is what people are going to care about in a case.”

It’s the consultants job to sensing how people are leaning, and how they’ll take in the evidence.

Pimley explained, “Sometimes scientific evidence is not how people think about things in their day to day lives, and they really struggle with it.”

That was the case, he said, with the DNA in the O.J. Simpson case.

Calzaretta continued, “If you don't trust corporations, are you all of a sudden gonna trust a CEO when they get on the stand?  Not a chance, doesn't happen, so you might not want to put the CEO on the stand you have to bring in other people, maybe they trust the worker, the common person, but not the person who sits up in the ivory tower.”

Large computer surveys gauge attitudes of the community including gun control, how people feel about police officers and the media.

Questions about police, hobbies and media habits are on the Slager jury pool questionnaire.

Pimley explained, “You can get a sense of how people are leaning by their hobbies and media habits.” 

For instance, he says, a Fox News viewer may be considered conservative. 

“And if my client is liberal, then I’m gonna try to avoid bringing them onto the jury that kind of thing,” he continued.

The consultants know what clubs you belong to, if you go to the church, the magazines you read, and how you surf the web.

Then come mock trials.  Through focus groups, people discuss evidence and deliberate a verdict.

“Then that’s how you base your strategy, “ Calzaretta said.  “You have a basis of understanding of how jurors are approaching the case.”

When trial begins, there are shadow jurors.  People are hired to sit in court.  They are matched one for one to the actual jury.

It’s jury tampering if the consultants ask the real jury some questions.

The shadow jurors can try to explain what the real jury is thinking.

The whole process is very expensive, used in cases where the stakes are high.

But for Calzaretta, when it comes to understanding what will be important to a jury, the research is spot on.

“They’re so accurate it can be a little frightening for people in the sense of how accurate they are,” he said.

 The American Bar Association has no official policy for or against jury consultants. 

According to Andy Savage, the attorney for Michael Slager, a Columbia jury consultant is working  the Slager case.

Savage said they conducted three focus groups important in this case because of extensive media coverage. He says it was labeled a racial incident.

Savage wanted to see if they could overcome what he called that false narrative.

Copyright 2016 WCSC. All rights reserved. 

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