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Do You Want a Lawyer on Your Jury? Pros and Cons to Consider

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By Mark Wilson, Esq. on September 11, 2014 3:43 PM

Time to select the jury. A hundred people from around town file into the courtroom, upset that they have to be there at all, even more upset that they had to wait so long, and all of them claiming to have a prepaid vacation.

And just your luck: There's a lawyer in the pool. Do you really want a lawyer on your jury? Here are some pros and cons to consider:

Neutral: The Lawyer Will Take Over.

Once the rest of the jurors find out there's a lawyer on the jury, they'll likely make him or her the foreperson. They'll also probably defer to whatever the lawyer has to say about evaluations of the evidence. This means you'll just have to convince that one lawyer, which can be good or bad, depending on what type of lawyer the person is and whether he or she is prosecution- or defense-oriented.

Con: They'll Bring Their Own Opinions With Them.

Juries are instructed to get all of their legal information and explanations from the judge. But with a lawyer on the jury, who needs a judge? There's the problem: A lawyer who's competent in the field the case is about would present a big problem, as he or she would bring along his or her own interpretations of what the law is. If the lawyer is providing input on explanations of the law, or outright ignoring the judge's explanations in favor of his own, you've got some rich grounds for an appeal.

Pro: They Can Think in an Organized Way.

Using outlines and checklists so much, we're used to breaking down issues into smaller chunks and organizing them in a way that makes logical sense. Having a lawyer on the jury might be a benefit in this way, creating less confusion in a complex case by shepherding the other jurors into a more organized way of thinking.

Con: The Lawyer Knows What's Missing.

In the theater, they say the audience doesn't know when you've made a mistake. That's true -- unless the audience is familiar with the play. There's a danger that a lawyer, knowing how the procedure works, will explain why things are being done a certain way (and whether it was done "right" or not) or why a piece of evidence was left out. This could, for example, lead to some negative inferences that wouldn't exist if the lawyer weren't there to create them.

Pro: They'll Be More Objective.

A lot of law school involved being taught how to argue both sides of an issue. Lawyers might understand the difference between advocacy and objectivity better than non-lawyers, leading to a "fairer" result. They're also trained to consider counterarguments when coming to a conclusion.

Can you think of any other reasons why having a lawyer on a jury might or might not be a good idea? Let us know on our Facebook page or send us a tweet @FindLawLP.

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