How to Make 8K a Day!

by Diane Dimond on April 27, 2008

A Money-Maker For Some

A Money-Maker For Some

I know a man connected to the justice system who makes eight thousand dollars a day.

You read that right. When he shows up in a courtroom for a client his very presence and whispered advice to the lead attorney is worth 8 thousand dollars per day.

And that’s on top of lots of other services he’s already charged for. He is a jury consultant. This man has also been a good, confidential source of information for me in the past so I cannot tell you his name. But I bring this up because I want Americans to understand what our system of justice has evolved into.

The consultant’s firm offers a soup-to-nuts menu of services and clients decide how much they want to spend. It goes without saying all the clients are wealthy – you and I would never be able to afford such “justice.”

You’re surely asking what the jury consultant does for all that money. Well, the minute a beleaguered client hires him the consultant’s firm gets to work. They study and then travel to the trial location. They will conduct intricate door-to-door surveys of the community, getting to know the ethical, religious, family and occupational background of the potential jury pool, carefully noting every response.

The firm also works backward to fully understand how much publicity their client’s case has already gotten in the local media. If it has been extensive then extra canvassing can be ordered up to try to gauge public opinion. Does the community already think the client is guilty? Would asking the court for a change of venue be the smartest course of action? If the answer is yes, and the court agrees to move the trial, then the firm picks up and re-plants its costly door-to-door activities to the new trial location.

Charting all this information is an enormous amount of work but it comes in handy later if the client chooses other services from the firm’s a la cart menu.

Once the jury consultants understand the moral fiber of the locale in which their client will be tried for, say, murder or a major white collar crime (think Enron) then the big honcho, the 8k guy, gives his learned opinion about what type juror should be chosen.  He might decide more women should be seated or older, more professional men would be more likely to decide in the client’s favor.

And as if that isn’t enough service for you – hold on to your hats! In some of the biggest cases jury consultants hire people called “shadow jurors.” Remember those door-to-door surveys? Well, once the real jury is seated the consultant can reach back into their extensive information files and pluck out people in the community that very nearly match the real jurors.

In other words, if juror number one is a civil engineer, father of two teenagers, the firm will find a virtual clone, hire that person for up to five hundred dollars a day and have them anonymously sit in the courtroom every day. If juror number five is a young mother with an accounting background they’ll find another person from the community just like her and have her sit in too. Sometimes as many as six or eight of these “shadow jurors” are hired to carefully listen to the proceedings.

At every break in the trial the shadows will huddle with defense attorneys to give real time feedback on what they’ve seen and heard. They might tell the lawyer that he or she is turning off the real jurors by being too harsh or loud. They may suggest certain lines of questioning the lawyer hadn’t even thought about. It’s the closest a lawyer can get to actually getting inside the minds of the real jurors.

Hiring a jury consultant doesn’t automatically mean the wealthy accused will get off. Just ask Martha Stewart who hired one of the most expensive jury firms around and lost anyway. During her five months in a West Virginia prison for lying about a stock transaction she certainly must have asked herself whether her final six figure legal bill was worth it.

But consider the case of murder defendant Robert Durst. He admitted killing, beheading and hiding parts of his elderly Texas neighbor’s body and was found not guilty. No matter that Durst had a long history of mental instability, no matter Durst had been a suspect in another murder. The jury, hand picked by one of the top jury consultants in America, found Durst had acted in self-defense.

Again, you and I could never afford such “justice.”



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