Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Jury Math

For the first time ever, I got called for jury duty. Yet another place in which better use of computers would really expedite the process (did we really need to answer questions with our assigned number so that it could be written down by hand? Isn't there some automatic way to do this? Maybe involving answering questions in advance, all at once? Etc.). The jury selection process was the most interesting part. From what I could gather, the rules for the selection were as follows (after jurors were asked individual questions earlier):

  1. Randomly order the potential jurors.
  2. Fill the jury seats with the jurors at the front of the queue (for criminal trials, that's 12 jurors plus 2 alternates or 14 seats). Some jurors in the queue are skipped over at the discretion of the judge (presumably based on the earlier questions). The judge has no limit on the number of jurors they may skip over.
  3. Each attorney is allowed 10 dismissals. These dismissals are done in rounds. In each round, each attorney may dismiss a juror or pass. I'm assuming that the attorneys don't try to dismiss the same juror. When jurors are dismissed, new jurors from the queue are inserted into the empty seats. I also assume that if an attorney passes "too many" times in a row then the judge gets annoyed and makes them choose.
  4. When all 10 dismissals are made, the process is over and all remaining jurors are dismissed. The jury are the people left in the seats at the end of the process.

So then, the questions are: What's the optimal strategy for each attorney? What if the desirability of a juror is not independent of the other jurors chosen? Ignoring the random ordering, what's the best position for a potential juror (assuming that they don't want to be chosen and assuming that they can't chose to be near the end of the queue) - how much do the surrounding jurors matter? How does this change if attorneys are allowed an unlimited number of dismissals, but have to pull the jury from the limited queue?

This is how I entertained myself while waiting. Well, that and thinking about how the white noise switch that the judge used when the attorneys were talking at the bench and we weren't supposed to hear them was sort of cool. Really the only mildly high-tech piece of the whole experience.

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