I had my first experience of jury selection this morning and was fascinated to discover that, in the Milton courthourse at least, it proceeds according to the 2 second rule. The process was this: a randomly selected juror would stand and face the accused and listen to the direction, "Juror, face the accused. Accused, face the juror." On the basis of this, either the crown or the defence attorney could "challenge" the juror, eliminating him/her from the panel. The only question was occasional clarification of a juror's occupation (e.g. where are you a manager/supervisor/executive?).
When we chunk down this process, the attorneys form their first 2 second opinion(A) based on the approach of the juror and his/her occupation. The juror and the accused form 2 second opinions of each other (B). The attorneys form a 2 second opinion of the relation between the juror and the accused (C). On the basis of their calibration of these 3 opinions (A, B, and C), the attorneys either accept or eliminate jury members.
Some patterns were obvious (the defence attorney in this case eliminated all older men with white hair). Some were less obvious (both accepted a woman who had previously expressed a concern about her own objectivity). What was absolutely clear was that this court, at least, had accepted that the judgments lawyers formed in 2 seconds were as good as those they would form after asking several questions.
If we could poll jurors before and after evidence was presented, what percentage of them would have changed the opinion they formed in those seconds they faced the accused before being selected and sworn in? Are the attorneys trying to rule out prejudice or filter for it? Is the right to a fair trial for both the accused and the community better served by picking objective people or by picking people whose biases will lead them to challenge one another by referring to the evidence presented?