Source of article The Jury Room - Keene Trial Consulting.

When facing a panel of prospective jurors for voir dire and jury selection it is important that you update your perceptions of who these people are in 2017. It is hard to keep up with change and to replace our outdated ideas of “how North America is” but here is some data to help you do just that. These facts are wonderful perspective changers and we hope some of them will surprise you (since that will help you remember and update your perceptions of those potential jurors).

“Normal America is not a small town of white people”

The people over at Nate Silver’s site did us an incredible service with this article first published in spring 2016. So—before you go look, when you think of “normal America”, what picture comes to mind? For those of you who think of a scene more consistent with 1950s America, this is a must-read. Things, times, our citizens and what is now “normative” has changed a lot since the 1950s. Here’s a look at the communities most like 1950s America and the communities most like the America of the present. The two sets of communities are incredibly different. It is a nod to why it is so very important to know the demographics of your venire but also an imperative to update that mental picture you have of “normal America”. We are so not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

Digital news and followup by race of online news consumer

So…when you think of who reads news online and who follows up on that news—would you think those who follow-up more likely to be Black or White? You don’t have to answer out loud,—just think to yourself and read on. Pew Research just published an article based on questioning more than 2000 online news consumers twice a day for a week.

As part of that questioning, Pew asked the news consumers if they took any of six pre-identified follow-up actions: speaking with someone either in person or over the phone; searching for additional information; posting, sharing or commenting on a social networking site; sending an article to someone by email or text message; bookmarking or saving the news for later; and commenting on a news organization’s webpage.

As a reminder, you are predicting whether Black or White online news consumers are more likely to do any of these six follow-up actions. Got your prediction? Here’s what Pew found:

Black online news consumers preformed at least on of these actions 66% of the time on average. For Whites it was 49%.

There are other fascinating differences by race in this recent report from Pew. You can read the entire (brief and succinct) summary here.

Who counts as Black anymore?

This is an opinion piece that mentions the Dark Girls and Light Girls documentaries and the difficulties both groups (Blacks with dark skins and Blacks with light skins) face in being Black in the current day. The author encourages us to stretch (and update) our perceptions of what constitutes race and Blackness. A worthwhile read from the website The Conversation.

How many US homes have televisions? 

Here’s another shifting reality. In the not too recent past, most US homes had televisions and often multiple televisions. That is changing. Again, from the Business Insider: the number of homes that do not include a TV set has “at least doubled since 2009”. While the percentages are still low (2.6% of American homes now do not include a TV) they are growing quickly and are a reflection of people turning to computers and mobile devices to access media. Percentages of homes without televisions is expected to continue to increase as young people grow older and continue to use alternate screens for viewing programming.

Who reads newspapers anymore? Older or younger Americans?

Young Americans have been less likely to read newspapers than older Americans for some time. But, recently, Pew Research looked closely at newspapers with a more national focus (e.g., The New York Times, the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today). While readership of election news was roughly equal for USA Today, the other three (NYT, WaPo, WSJ) attracted more readers under 50 than over 50 when it came to election news coverage. This is different from the patterns for local newspaper which are read more by older readers. Pew concludes that digital outreach efforts are working for these national papers in attracting younger readership.

Just how common is crime by immigrants? (Not at all common.)

Despite ongoing political rhetoric about victims of crimes by immigrants, it is simply not a significant problem. The Business Insider summarizes the statistics this way:

According to a September 2016 study by Alex Nowrasteh at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, some 3,024 Americans died from 1975 through 2015 due to foreign-born terrorism. That number includes the 9/11 terrorist attacks (2,983 people) and averages nearly 74 Americans per year.

Since 9/11, however, foreign-born terrorists have killed roughly one American per year. Just six Americans have died per year at the hands, guns, and bombs of Islamic terrorists (foreign and domestic).

According to Nowrasteh’s analysis, over the past 41 years (January 1975–December 2015), and including the 9/11 attacks:

The chance an American would be killed by a foreign-born refugee terrorist is 1 in 3.64 billion per year, based on the last 41 years of data.

The chance of an American being murdered by an undocumented immigrant terrorist is 1 in 10.9 billion per year.

The chance an American could be killed by a terrorist on a typical tourist visa was 1 in 3.9 million.

This article contains tables of numbers that are easy to read and point out the reality behind the rhetoric. The political rhetoric is about fear and not about reality. Read beyond the rhetoric to get to the facts.

How America changed during Barack Obama’s Presidency 

If you have looked at any of these changes with some level of surprise, it would also prove useful to look at another Pew Research report examining changes in America during the eight years of the Obama presidency. This report covers attitudes important in voir dire and jury selection as they reflect values and beliefs relevant to case decision-making. So many changes have taken place in the past eight years that it is staggering to see them all summarized in this report. There are sure to be some changes (and corresponding shifts in attitude) that will be related to your own upcoming cases.