Isn’t that a little odd? “[R]ace data is routinely disclosed to parties as part of juror profile information for purposes of voir dire.” Ah, yes. I get that. Lawyers are prohibited from race-based juror picking so it is important for the lawyers to know a juror’s official race so they avoid using this as a factor. (?) And, apparently, lawyers cannot simply see skin color or maybe they’d get confused. (“He could be a very tan Jew or a light-skinned black. Check the juror profile.” “I think she’s either Irish Gypsy, or maybe an Egyptian-Serbian-Afghan mix? But maybe she’s just black? Check the profile.”)
I also have to say that “Hispanic Origin” is cute, as well. Are the only options, “Yes” or “No”? What about “Maybe”? How about 3/8ths? How about “Mestizo“?
(I note that the last Peruvian census that attempted to classify persons according to ethnicity was in 1940. Maybe the clever little Peruvians are onto something down there.)
Then there’s “children ages.” This is important because parents of teen-agers are obviously temporarily insane and parents of small children are sleep-deprived. But my problem with this part of the form is that it is limited to five children. On a recent panel of jurors, there was a parent of 10 children. Fortunately, this critical piece of information came out in voir dire, since it could not be reflected on the profile. This potential juror was excused. As a leader of a small country, this person obviously would not have time to sit on a jury.
And, finally, we come to gender. Once upon a time (1954 and before, to be precise), people used to think that humans had to behave in certain ways, had to dress in certain ways, had to talk and walk in certain ways (and on and on) based upon a labeling process that related solely to the newborns’ genitalia. Generally, one was tagged as a “girl” or a “boy.” Any others were relegated to a catch-all category which, society determined, should never be spoken of so it went without a name. “Boys” (that is, healthy ones) liked “girls.” “Girls” (again, the healthy ones) liked “boys.” No one really cared who the unnamed category liked. No one was supposed to like them.
More recently, this attitude toward “gender” has been called into question by many people but, to be sure, not all. But there it is, on the jury form. (And, again, the lawyers, I guess, are deemed incapable of figuring out this variable just by sight.)
Seriously, I would suggest that one’s occupation and one’s education influence and reflect one’s ideas, opinions, prejudices, or predispositions. These data, therefore, probably help lawyers get to know people on the jury panel in a way that is meaningful and important. One’s spouse’s occupation is one’s own, once-removed, you might say, so this, too probably shapes our views and attitudes and is worthwhile information for jury selection. (Those married to lawyers, for example, tend to be saints, fools, or masochists or some combination of these three attributes.)
But the other information on Minnesota’s “Juror Profile” form seems less valuable and more attenuated from the profile’s purpose. Some of it verges on antiquated and, to some, it is even offensive.