Sunday, March 18, 2007

On jury selection

Like I generally do when I'm exposed to something (and I've been called to jury duty a couple of times, once seated and the other dismissed), I like to think of ways to make the process more efficient. I'm not very knowledgable about the lawyer side of the equation, but I do happen to be fairly familiar with voting methods and selection theory, and here are my thoughts on how to empanel a fair jury:

Have all people eligible for jury duty fill out a questionaire covering a series of questions that can be reasonably asked by the court in a wide range of cases. Split the information, so one department has questionaires only identified by juror number, and another with juror numbers matched only with contact information, so the two are kept separate.

For each court case, let prosecution and defense rank as many potential jurors as they want from the entire pool of potential candidates based solely on the information from these questionaires -- essentially, voting for the ones they want. Using a recognized voting method (Range, Approval, Condorcet, Borda, Kemeny, or whatever else can be agreed on), pick the eligible jurors with the highest combined score from both sides, plus as many alternates as are needed.

Once the jurors are chosen, the juror numbers are given to the contact office, which calls them, asks a few questions to make sure they have not heard about or formed an opinion on the case, and then schedules them for jury duty.

This would prevent things like kicking off people because of race or appearance, and you would almost certainly get fairer trials than you currently have in high-profile cases. There might be some concern as for privacy because of the jury questionaires, but separating the questionaire from personal information should do a lot to alleviate that concern.