Straight from the Prosecutor's Mouth

Revolutionary Worker #909, June 1, 1997

The following are excerpts from the training videotape in which Jack McMahon, then an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia, offers advice on picking a jury:

"The case law says the object of getting a to get a competent, fair and impartial jury. Well, that's ridiculous. You're not trying to get that. Both sides are trying to get the jury most likely to do whatever they want them to do. If you go in there, any one of you, and think you are going to be some noble civil libertarian...that's ridiculous. You'll lose. You'll be out of the office."

"You are there to win...The defense is there to win, too. The only way you're going to do your best is to get jurors that are unfair, and more likely to convict than anybody else in that room."

"Let's face it...The blacks from the low-income areas are less likely to convict. I understand it. There's a resentment for law enforcement. There's a resentment for authority. And as a result, you don't want those people on your jury. And it may appear as if you're being racist, but again, you're just being realistic."

"You always want to ask what section of the city they live in...Let's be honest: People who live in North Philadelphia have a different perspective on law enforcement and the government than people who live in...Somerton or Chestnut Hill."

"In my experience, you look for how [prospective jurors] are dressed...If you take middle-class people, that are well dressed, you're going to do well."

"Another thing I've learned over the years to look at...Most jurors bring to court a book. Look at that book. If they're reading Karl Marx, you know you don't want this person..."

"My opinion is you don't want smart people...Because smart people will analyze the hell out of your case. They have a higher standard. They hold you up to a higher standard. They hold the courts up to a higher standard because they're intelligent people. They take those words `reasonable doubt' and they actually try to think about them. (Audience laughter.) You don't want those people. You don't want people who are going to think it out."

"Another factor, in selecting blacks, you don't want the real educated ones. This goes across the board. All races...If you're sitting down and you're going to take blacks, you want older black men and women, particularly men. Older black men are very good, guys 70, 75 years old are very good jurors generally speaking...they are from a different era, and a different time. And they have a different respect for the law..."

"Older black women, on the other hand--when you have a black defendant who is a young boy and they can identify, a motherly type thing--are a little different. The men don't have the same kind of maternal instinct towards them. they are a little bit more demanding, a little bit more law and order."

"The other thing is, blacks from the South. Excellent. Ask where they are from. If they say I've lived in Philadelphia five years, if they are from South Carolina and places like that, I tell you, I don't think you can ever lose a jury with blacks from South Carolina. They are dynamite. They just have a different way of living down there, a different philosophy. They are law and order. They are on the cops' side. Those people are good."

"Again, my experience, young black women are very bad. There's an antagonism. I guess maybe because they're downtrodden in two respects. They are women, and they're black. So they are downtrodden in two areas, so they somehow want to take it out on somebody and you don't want it to be you..."

"You want people of all the same intellectual capabilities, all middle class, same economic backgrounds. That's the ideal jury because...they are cohesive. You don't want a person that's real smart, and you don't want the real dumb ones because the dynamics are not there."

"You don't want social workers. That's obvious. They got intelligence, sensitivity, all this stuff. You don't want them.... Teachers are bad, especially young teachers. Like teachers who teach in the grade-school level. Sometimes, you get teachers. I've had good luck with teachers who teach in the public school system...they may be so fed up with the garbage that they've had in their school. They may say, `I know this kind of kid. He's a pain in the ass.' If you get like a white teacher teaching in a black school that's sick of these guys maybe, that may be one you accept."

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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