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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Jury Selection in Willard Robocall Trial Favors Russ Olson's Wentworth Neighbors

A group of randomly selected Lake County citizens will troop to the courthouse tomorrow to see if they win a seat on the jury for Daniel Willard's robocall trial, which will treat them to lengthy discourses on South Dakota campaign finance law, the First Amendment, and the conflicts therebetween.

Oh, wait, did I say randomly?

As I understand the process, the state and Willard both get to strike three jurors. That means the first 18 names on the jury list are probably all the further down we need to go to see who's likely to hear the case.

This case is happening in Lake County because resigning Senator Russell Olson is claiming the harm (remember, Olson, calls it terrorism) from Willard's robocalls. Olson lives in the Wentworth ZIP, 57075, as do 892 other Lake County residents. Wentworth/57075 makes up 7.97% of Lake County's 11,200-person population (I'm using 2010 Census data). Those percentages would shift a bit if we were talking just legal adults eligible for jury duty, but let's roll with what we have.

Given those numbers, one would expect a list of 18 people randomly drawn from Lake County to include maybe one or two of Russ's Wentworth neighbors. Do some math, and you discover that there's a 95% chance that an 18-person random sample of Lake County residents should include no more than three Wentworthers.

The first 18 names on the Willard trial jury list include nine people from Wentworth.

Run this experiment one million times, and you should get that many 57075 residents in your jury pool three times.

In an infinite universe, anything can happen. In Lake County, anything includes a jury pool with a highly unlikely geographical bias toward the influential aggrieved party.

Tangentially Related Judicial Trivia: Did you know that it is a Class 2 misdemeanor to ask the sheriff or deputy sheriff to place yourself or anyone else on a jury? See SDCL 16-13-44. Lawyer friends, can you explain to me where that statute came from? And has anyone ever been prosecuted under it?


  1. Roger ELgersma8/25/2013 10:26 AM

    Courts will be courts. If you are in the professional buddy system, you win.
    The Bible says to stay out of court and settle your differences yourself.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. I have a Wentworth Zip and I was not chosen...makes me feel like less of a citizen...oh wait, I have not changed my address for voting purposes so I suppose I am still in 57042...I better check on that...I see the States attorney on m-w-f at the community center I will ask him...

  4. Now, Wayne, don't let a purely random drawing of names make you feel unfavored. But I would like to hear Mr. Giles's perspective on how often he's gotten strange jury draws like this one.

  5. Cory - surprised? sure!!

  6. Thank you for the math link. It would be interesting to do some analysis there compared to some other geographically contentious trials in that county, wouldn't it?


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