Peter Schaffer: How to Pick a Jury

Peter Schaffer: My case would have to be one that would be so controversial or so offensive to the average person that I would think they’d be better off with a judge.  It’s very rare.  The only time that I can think of doing it is where I’ve had a client where their race was different than the race of all of the jury panel and I felt that and the race of complainant was the same as all of the jury panel and in an exercise of caution I thought my client would do better in front of a judge.  Now race isn’t the only consideration.  I mean if it’s an offense that- you know,

offenses involving where the child’s an alleged victim and people will bend over backwards to try to protect children, and there may be facts, legal issue that are better decided by a judge, I might consider going in front of a judge.  But my experience in front of juries has been very favorable and it would take a lot for me to waive clients.  One of the most fundamental rights that someone has being a criminal defendant in the United States is the ability to have a jury decide their fate rather than one individual.  So it doesn’t happen often.

Question: What will both a defense attorney and prosecutor look for in a jury?

Peter Schaffer:  Well, I haven’t been a prosecutor, but I know they pretty much want to pick the people that I would get rid of and vice-versa.  It really depends on the case.  I mean you have to make generalizations, but again, it depends the type of case.  If it’s a case where there’s police witnesses, I want people that have a lot of experience in the community to know that not everything a police officer says is necessarily a hundred percent true, that they’re going to listen.  And I talk to individual jurors and sort of bounce their ideas off other people.  I wouldn’t say that there’s categories of people I avoid a hundred percent except for of course law enforcement.  I would never seat another lawyer ‘cause they would take over the jury and I don’t think that they’re necessarily great for the defense

unless they’re a defense lawyer and they probably wouldn’t make it too far in the panel anyways.  I think the prosecution- I can’t generalize, but I think that they try to find people that would be sort of anti crime but won’t say that, but that they can kind of tell.  And I think prosecutors, again, we try to strike those people.  Prosecutors try to find people that are different as possible from your client; whereas I might try to find someone that has some common ground with my client.

Question: What is the process of selecting a jury?

Peter Schaffer:  Well, it depends in every jurisdiction.  In New York, it’s based on the level of the offense.  If it’s a misdemeanor and you get a misdemeanor jury, you have three peremptory strikes; in other words, three strikes you can use for any reason except for one that’s, you know, prevented by the constitution.  You can’t strike someone because you don’t like their race or you don’t like their sexual orientation or their sex, etcetera.  And as the crimes get more serious, the amount of strikes you get goes up.  I mean for something like a B felony, which is fairly serious but includes a lot of the cases that would handle drug sales, you get 15 challenges.  And those are independent of what are called challenges for cause which if a person for one reason or another can’t be fair, there’s an unlimited amount of challenges you get for that.  So jury selection, it’s necessary, but it can be cumbersome, it could take longer than the trial itself, but it’s really the part of the trial that I try to focus on because it doesn’t matter
how good your case is, it really depends on who’s listening to it.

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Credit: Petr Kratochvil.
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Finalist: Greater Commons - Todd McLeod

Greater Commons, founded by Todd McLeod and Andrew Cull, is an organization that helps people live happier, more successful and fulfilling lives through agile learning. The current education system is inefficient and exclusionary, in which many students who end up earning a degree, if at all, enter a career not related to their field of study. Greater Commons solves this problem and gap in post-high school secondary education in a variety of ways. Passionately and diligently, Great Commons helps others obtain skills, knowledge, wisdom, motivation, and inspiration so that they may live better lives.

Finalist: PeerFoward - Keith Frome

PeerForward is an organization dedicated to increasing the education and career success rates of students in low-income schools and communities by mobilizing the power of positive peer influence. PeerForward works with partner schools to select influential students as a part of a team, systemizing the "peer effect." Research in the fields of sociology of schools, social-emotional learning, adult-youth partnerships, and civic education demonstrates that students can have a positive effect on the academic outcomes of their peers. PeerForward is unique through its systemic solutions to post-secondary education.

Finalist: Cogniss - Leon Young

Cogniss combines technology and best practice knowledge to enable anyone to innovate and share solutions that advance lifelong learning. Cogniss is the only platform to integrate neuroscience, through which it solves the problem of access by providing a low-code platform that enables both developers and non-developers to build sophisticated education apps fast, and at a much lower cost. It addresses the uneven quality of edtech solutions by embedding research-based learning design into its software. App creators can choose from a rich set of artificial intelligence, game, social and data analytics, and gamification to build their perfect customized solution.

Finalist: Practera - Nikki James

Practera's mission is to create a world where everyone can learn through experience. Today's workplaces are increasingly dynamic and diverse, however, costly and time-consuming experiential learning is not always able to offer the right opportunities at scale. Many students graduate without developing the essential skills for their chosen career. Practera's team of educators and technologists see this problem as an opportunity to transform the educational experience landscape, through a CPL pedagogical framework and opportunities to apply students' strengths through active feedback.

Thank you to our judges!

Our expert judges are Lorna Davis, Dan Rosensweig, and Stuart Yasgur.

Lorna Davis is the Senior Advisor to Danone CEO and is a Global Ambassador for the B Corp movement. Lorna has now joined B-Lab, the non-for-profit that supports the B Corporation movement on an assignment to support the journey of large multi nationals on the path to using business as a force of good.

Dan Rosensweig joined Chegg in 2010 with a vision for transforming the popular textbook rental service into a leading provider of digital learning services for high school and college students. As Chairman and CEO of Chegg, Dan commits the company to fulfilling its mission of putting students first and helping them save time, save money and get smarter.

Stuart Yasgur leads Ashoka's Social Financial Services globally. At Ashoka, Stuart works with others to initiate efforts that have mobilized more than $500 million in funding for social entrepreneurs, engaged the G20 through the Toronto, Seoul and Los Cabos summits and helped form partnerships with leading financial institutions and corporations.

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