Jury-rigging

The law, lawyers, and the court.
Aug. 10 2006 3:46 PM

Jury-Rigging

Can a computer pick a better jury than a high-priced consultant?

(Continued from Page 1)

What JuryQuest has in common with its human competitors are clients hamstrung by a shortage of meaningful information about the strangers rounded up for jury duty. Where the program differs is in its approach. Instead of using subtle behavioral clues to plumb for concealed opinions, JuryQuest seeks meaning in only superficial traits. People are either sympathetic to someone accused of a crime or they're not, JuryQuest posits. That's it.

The program's results often approximate those of intuitive reasoning. Asked to judge an Asian engineer in his late 20s, a professional jury consultant might cite recent sociology work documenting generational attitude differences in Asian-Americans before concluding that he isn't a major threat to the defense. JuryQuest doesn't tell you that; it just spits out a number right in the middle of its bias spectrum. According to either method, he's not the guy to blow a challenge on.

Advertisement

That juror bias could be crammed onto a single axis strikes some observers as less elegant than simplistic. Victor Gold, a professor at Loyola Law School who specializes in jury selection, said a program like JuryQuest would likely be of only limited value. "It would be as if someone came up with a system where you run a form through a database, and we come up with your ideal spouse," Gold says. "To have a lot of faith in it is foolish. Juries are far more complex than any computer program can address."

Gold's got a point. And in fact, attorneys who use JuryQuest do seem most comfortable using it the same way singles use the suggestions of an Internet dating site. By aligning significant but underappreciated qualities in its subscribers, the leading dating sites analyze potential romantic pairings in order to provide suggestions, confirmations, or the rationale for cold feet. No attorney would let JuryQuest impanel a jury on its own, just as Match.com's clients wouldn't blindly accept the site's suggestions for whom to elope with.

But whether the Web site's suggestions might result in a closer look and possibly even drinks with an otherwise middling candidate is another matter, and one with some parallels to picking juries. Relying on probability in either love or law might not be ideal, but it's a pragmatic place to start.

Jeff Horwitz is an editor for American Banker.

TODAY IN SLATE

The Slatest

Ben Bradlee Dead at 93

The legendary Washington Post editor presided over the paper’s Watergate coverage.

The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Whole Foods Is Desperate for Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again

The XX Factor

I’m 25. I Have $250.03.

My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I’m 25. I Have $250.03. My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.
Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

George Tiller’s Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Provider, Claims Free Speech

Walmart Is Crushing the Rest of Corporate America in Adopting Solar Power

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 3:13 PM Why Countries Make Human Rights Pledges They Have No Intention of Honoring
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 1:47 PM The Best Way to Fry an Egg
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 21 2014 5:38 PM Justified Paranoia Citizenfour offers a look into the mind of Edward Snowden.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.