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Kings County Criminal Bar examines jury selection strategies during monthly CLE meeting

February 16, 2016 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Samuel Gregory, a KCCBA board member known for his charitable work with the Brooklyn to Alaska Project, will be honored as Man of the Year at the KCCBA's annual dinner in April. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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The Kings County Criminal Bar Association hosted a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminar titled “Jury Selection from the Inside and Out” on Remsen Street in Brooklyn Heights on Thursday night.

The speakers for the CLE were Gary Farrell, a past president of the KCCBA; Mark Hale, chief of the Kings County District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit; and Javier Solano, who has experience as a juror in the Gigi Jordan case.

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“Jury selection can be the most important part of a trial,” said Christopher D. Wright, treasurer of the Kings County Criminal Bar Association (KCCBA). “I remember when I was a young legal aid attorney, the fear of death would grip me when I heard the court officer say the panel is at the door. I’m sure we’ve all felt something similar, and the next time I pick a jury I’m going to have that feeling again.”

The three attorney’s giving the lecture all brought different perspectives: Farrell, of the private practice defense attorney; Hale, for his experience working with the DA’s Office; and Solano, as a juror.

“We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘All we want is a fair and impartial jury,’” Hale said. “You hear the judge intone it when speaking to the prospective jurors, you’ve heard the defense attorney say it to them and the prosecutor says it too. Well guess what, we’re all lying to them.

“The client wants a jury that’s going to acquit him no matter what the evidence is, the prosecution wants a jury slathering, waiting to put the guy in jail, and the judge doesn’t care what kind of jury you have as long as you pick it quick and keep the calendar going,” Hale said.

No fool proof plan was outlined by the panelists, but various suggestions were offered. Hale suggested that since it can be the most important part of the trial, that lawyers must have a strategy in mind going into jury selection. Farrell cautioned not to look for one particular juror.

“This whole jury selection is an art and not a science,” Farrell said. “I’ve never gone into a case looking for a particular juror. I just feel it. I have thoughts about the case and try to work them into my voir dire, and listen to the responses and try to make a decision based on that. The key is listening to what they have to say.”

Solano was perhaps the most anticipated speaker during the event, but even with his insider point of view, he could not offer a “magic key.” But he did suggest that attorneys pay attention to who the leaders and followers of a jury might be and watch who sits next to whom.

The KCCBA will meet again on March 10 when attorney Michael Ross will present a CLE on ethics. A date for the KCCBA’s annual dinner dance has been chosen — April 16 at Giando on the Water in Williamsburg — where KCCBA member Samuel Gregory will be honored with the Man of the Year award.

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