Jury Selection

What type of juror will be helpful in defending against a white collar criminal charge?

Research demonstrates that jurors who are highly educated, who earn more money, or who are successful professionals or business owners are less likely to vote to convict white-collar defendants. The less a juror understands the complexities of high finance and the world of top corporate executives, the more likely she will succumb to the “greedy pigs at the trough” stereotype of corporate executives, bringing her that much closer to a guilty vote.

Should issues of wealth and lifestyle be brought up when picking a jury?

Bring the issue of wealth and lifestyle out in the open while picking the jury: My client is a successful corporate executive who has been handsomely rewarded by his employer. By any standards, he is rich, and has a lifestyle to match. Is that a crime? Ask the jurors if they know anyone who is a successful corporate executive. Engage them in a discussion of pay-for-performance in corporate America. Strike a theme: Just because you’re rich, doesn’t mean you are guilty. Draw the sting. Desensitize the jury to the glamour, beginning with voir dire and follow through in your opening statement. Taking these steps before the trial even begins help improve the defendant’s chances of successfully defending against a white collar criminal charge.

How should an executive’s salary be brought up?

Make sure that the jury has adequate context to understand the issue. If the defendant’s salary is disclosed without any other added perspective, then the jury will rush to stereotype the client as another greedy corporate executive! There must be some context.

While some CEOs are overpaid or, even worse, paid for incompetence, jurors can only appreciate the difference between pay-for performance and pay-for-incompetence by first understanding the CEO’s job, the marketplace and the stakes involved. When a congressman suggested to Ford CEO Alan Mulally that he should take a salary of one dollar, given the near-bankrupt state of his company, Mulally politely declined and took home nearly $17 million in compensation. That seems outrageous until placed in context. Mulally’s payday came on the heels of a billion-dollar turnaround that transformed a $970 million loss at Ford into profits of nearly $700 million just one year later. Knowing that, $17 million doesn’t sound like quite so much.