Longtime Akron attorney Brian Pierce tries to avoid having engineers or architects on juries during his trials.

Attorney Ed Smith, though, thinks people in these analytical professions make fine jurors.

Attorney John Alexander likes teachers as jurors, but some prosecutors don’t.

While local attorneys and prosecutors may disagree on who makes the best jurors, they agree on one issue — the pivotal role that jurors play in the justice system.

“There’s not too many things more important than to serve as a juror,” said Sherri Bevan Walsh, Summit County’s longest-serving prosecutor.

“I think we have the greatest criminal justice system in the world,” said Pierce, a defense attorney for 24 years. “What makes it great is the jury system. It only works if people are willing to sacrifice their time and participate.”

Despite the importance of the service, the attorneys say they regularly hear about people who want to get out of it.

Walsh, an attorney and prosecutor for 33 years, can only recall once when a friend was excited to serve on a jury. She said her friend had a full-time job in which others could cover for her, so her service wasn’t going to be a financial drain or inconvenience.

The attorneys say they want jurors who are honest about their opinions and misgivings.

Alexander said he once kept a juror who had been robbed before on a robbery trial. The jury found his client not guilty. He said the juror asked him afterward why Alexander didn’t dismiss him. The lawyer responded: “Because you told the truth. You would be lying if you said it would have no effect.”

Walsh recalled once during a trial early in her career when a defense attorney asked the potential jurors not to hold it against his client if he said something that offended them. A juror raised his hand and told the lawyer, “You look like the typical sleazy attorney — and I won’t believe a word you say.”

Walsh said the attorney responded, “That’s the type of honesty we like to see in a juror.” The juror was excused.

Summit County Common Pleas Judge Joy Malek Oldfield said jury service is difficult and she’s had jurors cry during testimony. She tells them to raise a hand if they need a break.

“It’s a completely new world for them,” Oldfield said. “A lot of jurors, it isn’t their world at all. It’s eye-opening.”

Walsh said prosecutors have offered jurors and grand jurors — who serve for two months and decide which cases should be indicted — the opportunity to talk to a victim advocate. She said some grand jurors have done this.

Many local attorneys haven’t had the chance to serve on a jury but say they would welcome the opportunity.

Alexander said he once got called for jury duty to serve on a case in which he was an attorney. He said he told the judge, “I can do both,” but the judge didn’t think this was amusing and he was excused.

Smith also once got called for a dogfighting case in which he represented one of the co-defendants. He also was booted.

Walsh figures she couldn’t be on a criminal case but could perhaps serve on a civil trial.

“As a prosecutor, it would be a great experience,” she said. “I’d love to see the other side.”

Oldfield also isn’t sure if she’d get picked for a jury but would love the chance to serve.

“I’ve always wanted to know what’s going on back there,” she said of the jury room.

 

Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, swarsmith@thebeaconjournal.com and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.