Jury selection in white-collar cases is always challenging as class biases and life experiences all too often taint potential jurors’ view of the defendant. Throw in a very public persona and widespread media coverage, and the task of finding 12 people, plus alternates, who can keep an open mind will be a monumentally high hurdle for the Manafort defense. And, it appears they will have to do it twice as the former Trump campaign chairman will be tried on an 18-count federal indictment in July and a separate five-count indictment in September – two trials, two venues, and many more months of 24/7 news cycles.
DOAR’s extensive research into inherent juror bias, and white-collar criminal defense cases in particular, put the Manafort jury selection challenges into sharp relief. We’ve found as many as 70 percent of potential jurors presume a defendant is guilty based solely on having been indicted. When the defendant is a wealthy, white male, a host of additional negative perceptions also come into play. Time and again in our mock trials we hear juror comments about how wealthy people are entitled and how defendants have enriched themselves off the backs of others; how they are “all liars driven by greed,” and how unfair it is that regular people pay taxes while rich people “get off.”
Manafort will certainly appear to check all of those boxes and then some. All of which is further complicated by today’s highly charged political climate and his Trump association. Then there is the potential for Presidential tweets commenting on this case and Special Counsel Mueller’s Russia investigation. Once the trial begins, getting jurors to stay off social media and turn off news alerts will be of paramount importance, but leading up to jury selection, all bets are off as to how much the potential jury pool has already been heavily influenced. Voir dire and any supplemental juror questionnaires will have to be highly tactical in order to gain a good sense of potential juror biases because empaneling a completely impartial jury, particularly in this case, will not be possible.
 DOAR Research Center, Presumed Guilty: Measuring Juror Bias Based on Indictment Alone (2018)