Criminal Justice

Juries without COVID-19-conscious people may be more likely to convict, defense lawyers say

  • Print.

jury box

Image from Shutterstock.

The COVID-19 pandemic may be changing the composition of juries because of the exclusion of people who fear contracting the virus, defense lawyers have told the Washington Post.

COVID-19-conscious people may be excluded because they don’t show up for jury duty or because judges dismiss them because of their health concerns, according to the article by columnist Radley Balko.

People who are more cautious about the virus tend to be more liberal, and people who are liberal may be less likely to convict.

John Campbell, a St. Louis-based jury consultant, explained in an interview with the Washington Post.

“In civil trials, we’ve found that a politically conservative jury is maybe 10 or 20% more likely to rule for the defendant,” Campbell said. “But in a criminal trial, a conservative jury can be as much as three times more likely to convict. So any change to the political makeup of a jury can have a big impact on the outcome.”

Video trials could also be skewing the makeup of juries.

“I’ve seen judges dismiss jurors in Zoom trials because of spotty Wi-Fi connections,” Campbell told the Washington Post. “So you may be selecting for wealthier, more educated people. Or you may be selecting against people in rural areas.”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.