24 April 2012

JuryStar: Nifty but Primitive

Since the the creation of the iPad companies have been trying to make it work in the court room. In particular, we want something that will work in jury trials. JuryStar is a more recent competitor in this space.  It's primarily a tool for jury selection and I suspect it may work better in jurisdictions outside of Virginia where individual voir dire is the norm; here we bring out the entire group and question them all together. Still, I think it does some interesting things, but I think it is weak in practical usage.
When you open JuryStar it starts with a fairly generic "select the trial" page. All you can do on this page is create a case, delete a case, or select a case to enter into. It's pretty straight forward.
Once you've chosen which trial you are going to prepare for, you can move to the "Questions" section. On the left side of this you enter topics you want to emphasize and the right you to list the questions you intend to ask in each of these sections. For each topic you enter you also enter a letter representing that topic.
The next section is the juror information section. There are a large number of squares at the bottom. You tap one one of the boxes and tap the button which says Enter Demographic Info. A box pops up for data entry. Of course, it starts with the name of the individual and then there is a section for the entry of demographic information and another for general notes. Presumably, this is to be done with whatever information your locality allows you prior to trial.

This is also the section wherein you place the jurors in their positions in the jury box. You tap the juror to be placed and then tap the jury box at the top where he is to be placed.

Here is where I ran into the first problem with the program. I cannot answer for the entirety of Virginia, but I have done jury trials in several jurisdictions and never seen jurors called in by number. They are called in by name. Even if I have entered 40 jurors' information into their individual numbered slots, I have no way of telling which of the 40 is John Smith so that I can place him in jury box number 1. This renders the program ineffective unless you practice in a jurisdiction that does use numbers when it calls the jurors.
Next is the section to be used during questioning. This is the part that I thought was nifty. You tap on a defendant and a topic then you ask your questions. As you do so, you move the slide on the screen so that a positive number or negative number is assigned to the juror for that topic. When done you tap the button on the right and the scores are put in the box above next to the code you entered earlier for each topic. I think it will work wonderfully in jurisdictions where individual voir dire is done and it will work well in Virginia where group voir dire is done.

This is a clever way of keeping score. It does not allow for specific notes as to the answers by individuals and this could prove problematic while defending that Batson claim after peremptory strikes. The program does allow you to open the juror back up and type notes in, but that's not practical while questioning. This is not the programmer's fault. Apple chose not have a stylus and most don't buy them. Therefore, the programmer has to create ways to make a system work without the ease of quickly written hand notes. This is an innovative way of attempting to do that.
Finally, there's the page for jury strikes. You tap the juror and then tap the party who has struck her. Under the party, the juror reverts to a box with a number on it. This page is almost entirely useless and could even be problematic.

To begin with, I couldn't find a way to put a juror back in the box or move her to a different party if accidentally put under the incorrect party. I guarantee that someone (most likely me) would be fumble fingered or acting too quickly and make a mistake. There has to be some way to remedy this. Maybe I missed it, but I tried everything I could think of to put a juror back in the box and failed.

Fundamentally, the reason that you are keeping track of whom the parties have struck is in case you need to make a Batson motion after the parties have completed their peremptory strikes. In order to do this you need, at the very least, the ethnicity and gender of the struck jurors listed. All we get are the numbers of the struck jurors. Even when you tap the number you don't get the juror's information. You have to go back to one of the prior pages to access that information.

This program needs work, but there are some cool ideas in there.

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