Jury selection resumes today in the trial of Ft. Hood gunman Maj. Nidal Hasan, and with Hasan clearly attempting to use his trial as a stage for his jihadist babbling, renowned jury selection expert Dr. Philip Anthony tells 1200 WOAI news that the military prosecutors may have to change course and try a different tactic.
"You want people are more rigid and dogmatic," Anthony said. "You want people on the jury who see the world in black and white and are more calculating."
Anthony, who heads a Los Angeles based jury consulting firm called 'Decision Quest' and who has consulted in the selection of hundreds of juries in high profile cases, says the key for prosecutors is to find somebody who will render a fair verdict on Hasan based on the evidence, not because they find him to be offensive.
Anthony says, unlike any other murder trial, the jurors will feel that they have been personally attacked, because the shootings, which left 13 people dead and 32 wounded in November of 2009, took place on an Army post. Even though the jury pool of officers of the rank of Major and above is coming from other posts, most notably Ft. Sill, Anthony says these men and women will feel that they personally were attacked. He says in a civilian home invasion case, nobody would pick for a jury a person who was in the house when it was invaded, but that is essentially what Army prosecutors are begin asked to do.
"They have been attacked in their own home, their colleagues have been gunned down, and their own house has been invaded," he said. "There will be a lot of emotion associated with that."
Hasan has also indicated that he will be anything but a sympathetic defendant. He has already bragged about committing the murders to the prospective jurors, and in one outburst in the courtroom, he told the military judge that the Army uniform, which all of the jurors wear proudly, 'represents an enemy of Islam.'
Anthony says in addition to dealing with this gibberish and still rendering a fair verdict on Hasan, the jurors, and the judge, will also have to make sure that they don't give Hasan grounds to have his inevitable convicted overturned on appeal, on the grounds that the jurors convicted him out of personal animus.
Anthony said there is also the importance of finding jurors who will hand Hasan the death penalty, which is something prosecutors are clearly seeking in this case. Prosecutors rejected an offer by Hasan to plead guilty to non capital charges in exchange for an agreement to drop the death penalty, but they refused. He says hardened military officers who have sent men into combat are, ironically, the hardest to convince to send a criminal to his death.
"There are only certain types of individuals who are willing to find for the death penalty," he said. "Some of it is philosophy, some of it has to do with experiences in life. In general, when we interview jurors after trial, the most frequent response we receive from a juror is, 'do you think I did the right thing?' Jurors want desperately do the right thing, and sometimes they don't know what the right thing is."
Anthony says one problem the military judge won't have is people who don't want to serve on a jury because they can't afford to take off time from work. In a court martial, the judge assigns the panel members to the court for the duration of the trial, so this will be their duty station for the potentially months that the trial will be underway.
"During this time, this will be the most important thing in their lives," Anthony said.