Recently, we heard a truly odd tale: A California jury makes a mistake on a juror form, setting a man free. Coincidentally, he is murdered hours later, allegedly by his sister's boyfriend. One of the attorneys in the case blamed it on what he called a "June jury," college kids who delayed service until summertime.
And then, the New York Post published a story on those darn hipsters who have basically ruined everything from cheap beer to run-down neighborhoods ... and who now present a problem for practitioners: the affluent hipster jury.
Are these actually problems, or are some lawyers just unable to relate to "millenials?"
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June Jury, Hipster Jury, Young Jury, Educated Jury
In the "June jury" case, the panel was split 8-4. And instead of telling the judge about the deadlock, they checked the "not guilty" box on the form -- a form which doesn't have a "deadlocked" option. You might blame the attorneys or judge for not explaining the form properly, but they pointed the finger at the jurors themselves.
As for the hipsters, Brooklyn attorneys are complaining that defendants are receiving more affluent "law and order types," rather than juries comprised of minorities who distrust police officers and are sympathetic to the accused. They call it the "Williamsburg Effect," after the increasingly "gentrified" Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.
The effect stretches to civil trials as well, with attorneys complaining about smaller verdicts and sometimes settling in lieu of facing 12 angry hipsters.
According to the U.S. Census data presented by the Post, the percentage of Caucasians in Brooklyn grew from 41 percent to 50 percent between 2000 and 2012. And it's not just a racial shift: More jurors have advanced degrees, such as MBAs and JDs.
That's Kind of Your Job, Right?
While it can be disconcerting to suddenly face a series of juries that are less sympathetic than before, isn't it your job to put things in a context that the jury can understand?
If the jury is a bunch of young, hung-over college kids on break, then speak slowly and explain things twice. If the jury has advanced degrees, then talk in terms of lost earning potential and don't expect them to buy ridiculous claims of a lost appetite from being handcuffed too tightly.
You're a salesperson and a storyteller. Find what works for your current audience, instead of what used to work. And if you need help figuring out what works, you can always stalk them on social media beforehand. (Hipsters love Instagram.)
Editor's Note, June 24, 2015: This post was first published in June, 2014. It has since been updated.
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