Danger! Peremptory Challenges Under Attack from Washington State Supreme Court Justice

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Recently the highest court in Washington seems to have set their sights on the issue of peremptory strikes in the jury selection process.  The article, “Wash. justices decry race bias in jury selection,” discusses an argument made recently by state Supreme Court Justice Steven Gonzalez that the use of peremptory strikes increases the potential for racism to play a role in jury verdicts.  Justice Gonzalez argued that peremptory strikes, a 700 year-old practice, have been used to unfairly eliminate minority jurors from jury panels, and according to Justice Gonzalez, should be eliminated.  However, this is a classic example of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” as the proper use of peremptory challenges, when informed by information gathered through robust voir dire and supplemental jury questionnaires, can actually reduce the instances of bias in jury decision-making.

Jury consultants have the opportunity to observe more mock jury trial deliberations and conduct more in-depth post-verdict interviews than virtually anyone else in the judicial system.  And we can tell you a single individual with bias or prejudice against a particular corporation, against management in an employment case, against law enforcement, or against a particular “type” of plaintiff can exert tremendous influence on a jury.

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