Prosecutor Guide to Jury Selection in Cases with LGBTQ+ Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking

A prosecutor’s first opportunity to combat potential bias during a criminal trial is jury selection. Jury selection, also known as voir dire, provides an opportunity to address bias, correct misconceptions, and strive for fairness in the process. Jury selection is also an opportunity to educate the panel about the crime and parties, to obtain promises to follow instructions on the law, and to plant seeds about the concepts of fairness and justice in the context of the current case. For cases involving LGBTQ+ victims, a comprehensive voir dire strategy is key to ensuring that anti-LGBTQ+ bias does not determine the outcome of the trial.

This Guide, developed in partnership with AEquitas and the American Bar Association, is designed to support prosecutors in drafting jury selection questions and related motions in limine to help address anti-LGBTQ+ bias among potential jurors.

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-21-GK-02238-MUMU awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.Prosecutor Guide to Jury Selection (OVW Approved)

Beyond Language Access: Confronting Bias & Implementing Strategies to Ensure Justice in the Prosecution of Sexual Violence, Domestic Violence, Stalking, and Human Trafficking Involving Survivors from Latine Communities

This web-based panel explores the ways in which bias against victims from Latine communities affects the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, and human trafficking. Panelists address the following topics:

-Effects of inequalities and challenges that Latine communites uniquely face as victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, and human trafficking;
-Barriers to reporting crimes, such as bias and stereotypes held by law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, and jurors that can translate into disparate outcomes for victims through unfair credibility determinations;
-Impact of bias on endangering accurate assessments of the probability of conviction in cases, and collateral consequences on a victim’s ability to seek restoration;
-Necessary commitments offices must make to eradicate implicit bias among its staff and enhance recruitment, mentorship, and support opportunities for individuals who are Latine; and
-Strategies for prosecutors’ offices to enhance justice for victims by engaging in cultural humility, promoting criminal record relief, improving training, and ensuring accountability reinforced by data. 

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-22-GK-03987-MUMU awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

Shielding the Victim: Litigating Rape Shield Motions

Rape shield laws provide prosecutors with a powerful tool to counter defense attempts to introduce irrelevant and highly prejudicial evidence of a victim’s sexual history at trial. First codified into law in 1974 in the state of Michigan, rape shield provisions now exist in every jurisdiction in the United States. They seek to eliminate the influence of an archaic and dangerous body of law that protected only the chaste, perpetuated overly broad notions of consent, and left victims without justice. All rape shield laws require exclusion of the victim’s prior sexual conduct unless the evidence falls within a specified exception. However, these laws have not stopped defense attempts to stretch the limits of codified exceptions in order to admit evidence of the victim’s sexual behavior. Marginalized communities, in particular, have been negatively affected by rulings under these laws. Prosecutors must be vigilant in their efforts to safeguard victims’ privacy to ensure they are not humiliated, silenced, and blamed for their own assaults.

This presentation discusses the history and foundation of rape shield laws, identifies and discusses the most frequent areas of appellate litigation, and provides prosecutors with the tools to effectively litigate rape shield motions. Presenters also discuss trial strategies to employ if efforts to preclude information about a victim’s prior sexual conduct are unsuccessful.

As a result of this presentation, participants will be able to:
-Litigate rape shield motions to protect victim privacy
-Prosecute cases using an offender-focused approach
-Employ strategies to mitigate harm to the victim and the case when evidence of victim’s prior sexual conduct is admitted

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-22-GK-03987-MUMU awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

Foundations of Sexual Violence Prosecutions: Recreating the Reality of the Crime

This webinar is part of a 10-episode podcast-style series focused on the foundational elements of prosecuting sexual violence cases. In each episode, AEquitas Attorney Advisor Jane Anderson engages in conversations with other AEquitas staff, former prosecutors with years of experience prosecuting sexual violence. 

In this episode, Jane and Attorney Advisor Patti Powers discuss how prosecutors can present evidence at trial to recreate the crime for jurors through the lens of the victim’s experience. They discuss techniques to bring evidence to life throughout various phases of trial, including jury selection, direct examination of the victim, expert testimony, and closing arguments.

At the conclusion of this episode, viewers will be better able to:
– Guide the jury’s response to evidence, from jury selection through closing argument
– Recreate the reality of the crime in direct examination of the victim
– Offer expert testimony to provide clarity and context for the victim’s response to trauma

Additional resources related to this episode:
Achieving Justice at Trial: Direct Examination of Victims of Violent Crimes
Advancing Justice: Interviewing and Presenting Testimony of Victims of Violent Crimes
Model Response to Sexual Violence for Prosecutors (RSVP Model): An Invitation to Lead, § 3.3 — Try the Case

 

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-21-GK-02220-MUMU awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice.

Not Just a Credibility Contest: Sexual Violence Prosecutions That Go Beyond “Offender Said, Victim Said”

Sexual violence cases are often mistakenly reduced to a contest of credibility between the victim’s disclosure and the offender’s denial. Even though jurisdictions do not require corroboration of the victim’s testimony at trial, jurors may find it difficult to convict a defendant absent additional evidence. While crimes of sexual violence typically do not occur in front of other individuals, there are always witnesses and evidence to corroborate what happened before, during, and after the assault. By presenting the full scope of admissible evidence, prosecutors will increase the likelihood of success at trial while reducing the burden on victims.

This presentation addresses strategies and tactics to understand and explain victim disclosures through a trauma-informed lens; utilize victim behavior experts to educate fact-finders about the range of victim responses to sexual violence; and examine offender characteristics, motivations, and behaviors, as well as the impact of the offender’s actions on the victim. The presenter suggests strategies for overcoming common misconceptions at trial, including establishing a compelling trial theme, introducing evidence of the defendant’s predatory behavior, presenting corroborating evidence to support witness credibility, and recreating the reality of the crime for the jury.

At the conclusion of this presentation, participants will be better able to:
-Maintain focus on the offender.
-Support victim and witness credibility with corroborating evidence.
-Develop and present expert testimony to explain victim behavior. -Recreate the reality of the crime at trial.

Intimate Partner Violence Foundations: Bringing the Victim’s Voice into the Courtroom

This webinar is part of a 10-episode podcast-style series focused on the foundational elements of prosecuting intimate partner violence cases (IPV).  In each episode, AEquitas Attorney Advisor Jane Anderson engages in conversations with other AEquitas staff, former prosecutors with years of experience prosecuting IPV. 

In this episode, Jane and Attorney Advisor Jon Kurland discuss how to successfully prosecute cases of domestic violence, regardless of whether the victim is available to testify at trial. They discuss how to use the rules of evidence to litigate the admission of victims’ out-of-court statements and the ways in which expert witnesses can educate the judge and the jury on victim behavior and the effects of trauma.

At the conclusion of this presentation, viewers will be better able to:

  • Use jury selection as an opportunity to educate the jury;
  • Litigate the admission of victim statements; and
  • Offer expert testimony to explain victim behavior and provide context.

Additional resources related to this episode:

The Prosecutors’ Guide for Reducing Violence and Building Safer Communities

This Guide discusses the essential capabilities necessary for a prosecutor’s office to effectively prevent and respond to crimes of violence. It suggests practices that are customizable and scalable, from foundational to enhanced, depending on an office’s available resources and experiences, as well as jurisdiction-specific needs and challenges . This Guide is intended to enable the executives responsible for operating a prosecutor’s office to identify policies and practices that can be readily implemented, as well as those that represent actionable goals to work toward. Every prosecutor’s office — whether a small tribal or rural office, a mid-sized suburban office, or a large office serving a major metropolitan area — can build the capacity to improve its response to violent crime by systematically incorporating promising practices that will harness all available resources to achieve the goal of a safer community.Prosecutors Guide for Reducing Violence and Building Safer Communities

A Prosecutor’s Quick Guide to Opioid Overdose Investigations

This is a summary of a comprehensive resource entitled Seeking Justice and Solutions: A Prosecutor’s Guide to Opioid Overdose Investigations. This Quick Guide provides an overview of areas for consideration, including investigative steps and prosecutorial decision-making. The full Guide provides further discussion of these topics, various examples of how prosecutors’ offices of all sizes have addressed these complex issues, and a self-survey to evaluate an office’s capacity to respond to overdoses.

 

A Prosecutor’s Quick Guide to Opioid Overdose Investigations

 

 

Criminal Jury Trials During COVID-19: Prosecution Leadership for a New Era

This webinar addresses the potential impact of pandemic safety measures on criminal jury trials and strategies for protecting the integrity of the proceedings. Presenters discuss strategies for triaging delayed cases; considerations of constitutional rights, including the 6th amendment right to a speedy and public trial, the 6th amendment right to confrontation,  and the 1st amendment freedom of the press; the use of juror questionnaires as a way to minimize potential exposure to COVID-19 during jury selection; and methods for adapting prosecution strategies to virtual platforms.

Opioids and Drug Delivery Resulting in Death

The opioid epidemic has devastated communities across the United States, resulting in hundreds of thousands of lives lost in the past two decades. In response, state and local prosecutors have taken a multifaceted approach to the crisis: diverting defendants with substance abuse issues from traditional prosecution, educating  communities about the dangers of opioid addiction; and increasingly, seeking to hold drug traffickers and dealers accountable for the deaths they cause. This webinar will spotlight one office’s efforts to tackle the opioid crisis. Tonya Lupinacci of the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office in Norristown, PA will discuss strategies that are broadly applicable to jurisdictions across the country, with a special emphasis on prosecuting Drug Delivery Resulting in Death and similar crimes. The session will focus on the evidence necessary for building these cases, theories of offender liability, and effective presentation of evidence at trial.