Interview with a vampire…. Or anti-vaxxer



Some years back there was a vampire movie called interview with a vampire.  Brad Pitt was the vampire. He was very well received among the living females in the movie but sucked the life out of them. I recently had to revisit this sense of being exhausted by a discussion after an hour talk with an unrepentant anti-vaxxer person or two. I had just given blood and played some tennis so maybe I was a little peaked. But, they are truly nutty and exhausting.

How does this relate to the law? A lot of what I do involves trying to assess how a jury or your average person would look at a particular situation. So, how do you account for the anti-vaxxer crowd on your jury pool? It is hard to weed them out. I ran a few focus groups pre-covid and there was a single angry white male who would always blame the victim in my cases where victims are usually blameless. After hearing his opinions on three different cases, they began to sound predictable and I ended up not inviting him back. But, his type of mindless anti-vax question everything mindset is corrosive and difficult to weed out.

In jury selection in a routine civil case like a car accident or slip and fall, there is very, very, very little time to get to know your jurors. It seems that some combination of trump, fox news, the internet, and covid has morphed into a whole segment of the population who are woefully misinformed about reality. Usually, this takes the form of “I read a lot” or I don’t trust mainstream media etc. A modicum of fact checking usually satisfies me that said people are nuts. What I don’t understand is when the anti-vaxxer gets covid, has to be hospitalized and then wants modern medicine and the nefarious pharma folks to save their lives, though they believe that all doctors are getting kickbacks. It is sort of pathetic is the best I can do. Maybe shake your head and ignore.

Usually, you will get a panel of 50 people to seat 12 jurors.  The process is usually complete within an hour or two maximum. In that time, if a person is not a felon or focused on avoiding jury duty, you don’t get much of a chance to figure out what people believe about the world, how they might look at your client, or evaluate a doctor or police officer’s testimony. Jury selection is very slap dash for routine run of the mill cases. So, you end up with a mishmash of people about whom you know very little. You learn enough to get rid of people who should be gotten rid of but the sleepers or silent people or those who harbor bizarre views of the world but live unassuming lives are impossible to pick out, unless you are just striking angry looking white men which is not allowed. I have heard proposals to question jurors about their bumper stickers, beliefs about January 6, fox news, internet habits etc. Never have I ever seen any of these questions posed to an actual juror. The judges just don’t want to be bothered with delving into a juror’s character.