A new computer program promises to help screen jury candidates by analyzing their social media

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A new computer program aims to help overworked lawyers screen potential jurors for their cases by analyzing data from their various social media profiles
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Lawyer’s computer program trawls potential juror’s social media and judges their RACE, politics and occupation to decide whether they should join the jury

  • An attorney has worked with a software company to develop a new program
  • The program will help lawyers screen jurors by analyzing their social media
  • The program will evaluate a variety of personal information and look for discrepancies between a person’s different accounts to show trustworthiness

An attorney’s computer program offers to screen potential jurors based on their ethnicity, political views and occupation to find a jury most favorable to a defense lawyer’s case.  

Momus Analytics, the company was founded by attorney Alex Alvarez, trawls potential jurors’ social media accounts and uses the findings to predict whether or not they should be chosen.

The program includes a racially-biased algorithm that suggests Asian, Central American, and South American people are more likely to be leaders – a quality the program appears to prize. People who described their race as ‘other’ were found to be likely to be leaders.

Alvarez, who worked with Texas-based software designer Frogslayer to develop the program, has a pending patent application for the program.

A new computer program aims to help overworked lawyers screen potential jurors for their cases by analyzing data from their various social media profiles

The system will then assign numerical scores to the potential juror in three prospective categories: leadership, social responsibility, and personal responsibility.

The program will use information like a person’s occupation, political affiliation, education level, and even their ethnicity to determine values for each category, according to a report in Vice.

The system can also scan for potential discrepancies in data between a person’s different social media accounts as a indicator they might be unreliable.

Alvarez says the idea first came to him after a jury ruled against one of his clients in what he had thought would a straightforward personal injury suit.

‘If the reason I win or lose, or any lawyer wins or loses, is based on his skill level, then why did this happen?’ he said in a short promotional video explaining the project.

‘And that started me on a quest to find out why jurors decide cases and how juries are deciding cases in America.’

Alex Alvarez founded Momus Analytics after a jury ruled against one his clients in a personal injury case he thought was simple and straightforward

Alex Alvarez founded Momus Analytics after a jury ruled against one his clients in a personal injury case he thought was simple and straightforward 

Juries are selected through a process called voir dire, giving both prosecutors and defense attorneys an opportunity to evaluate jurors.

Alvarez believes that an additional analytical tool to help attorneys make better use of their limited time with jurors during voir dire could lead to better outcomes.

‘The voir dire system can be challenging given the very short time frame in which an attorney has to interview the jurors,’ Momus’s patent application argues.

Attorneys are allowed to question potential jurors before a trial in a process called voir dire, but they're only allowed to reject a limited number of jurors and often times aren't given enough time to research the backgrounds of the potential jurors

Attorneys are allowed to question potential jurors before a trial in a process called voir dire, but they’re only allowed to reject a limited number of jurors and often times aren’t given enough time to research the backgrounds of the potential jurors

WHAT IS VOIR DIRE?

Voir dire is a  process used to select jurors before a jury trial.

The term combines two French words, for ‘see’ and ‘speak,’ which colloquially means ‘to speak the truth.’

 Both prosecutors are allowed to question potential jurors to try and select candidates that they believe will be most suitable.

Depending on the state both prosecutors and defense attorneys are allowed to automatically disqualify a set number of jurors for any reason they like.

The number of times they are allowed to do this is generally limited to ensure the process doesn’t become interminable. 

‘You’re looking for people who need to be removed (from the jury pool) and your questions should be designed to uncover those who should be removed,’ attorney and jury expert Jeffery T. Frederick says of the process.

‘Attorneys are often given as little as thirty minutes or less to conduct the voir dire process. Challenges are available to each party in order to disqualify a juror, either for cause or without cause, depending on the biases the juror reveals…but no matter the number they are typically finite.’

‘Accordingly, a method or system to quickly evaluate a juror’s background for possible biases, within the short timeframe provided for voir dire, would be beneficial to an attorney seeking to select a favorable jury panel with a limited number of challenges available.’

Andrew Ferguson, a law professor at American University, cautions that the company’s approach may introduce its own set of unexamined biases, which could violate the law’s prohibition of race and gender discrimination in jury selection.

‘The idea that the algorithm is going to weight race or gender or other protected classes in a way that could be outcome determinative,’ he told Vice, ‘that’s a problem, because then you’re kind of tech-washing your racialized assumption of individuals,’

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Lawyer’s computer program trawls potential juror’s social media and judges their RACE, politics and occupation to decide whether they should join the jury

  • An attorney has worked with a software company to develop a new program
  • The program will help lawyers screen jurors by analyzing their social media
  • The program will evaluate a variety of personal information and look for discrepancies between a person’s different accounts to show trustworthiness

An attorney’s computer program offers to screen potential jurors based on their ethnicity, political views and occupation to find a jury most favorable to a defense lawyer’s case.  

Momus Analytics, the company was founded by attorney Alex Alvarez, trawls potential jurors’ social media accounts and uses the findings to predict whether or not they should be chosen.

The program includes a racially-biased algorithm that suggests Asian, Central American, and South American people are more likely to be leaders – a quality the program appears to prize. People who described their race as ‘other’ were found to be likely to be leaders.

Alvarez, who worked with Texas-based software designer Frogslayer to develop the program, has a pending patent application for the program.

A new computer program aims to help overworked lawyers screen potential jurors for their cases by analyzing data from their various social media profiles

The system will then assign numerical scores to the potential juror in three prospective categories: leadership, social responsibility, and personal responsibility.

The program will use information like a person’s occupation, political affiliation, education level, and even their ethnicity to determine values for each category, according to a report in Vice.

The system can also scan for potential discrepancies in data between a person’s different social media accounts as a indicator they might be unreliable.

Alvarez says the idea first came to him after a jury ruled against one of his clients in what he had thought would a straightforward personal injury suit.

‘If the reason I win or lose, or any lawyer wins or loses, is based on his skill level, then why did this happen?’ he said in a short promotional video explaining the project.

‘And that started me on a quest to find out why jurors decide cases and how juries are deciding cases in America.’

Alex Alvarez founded Momus Analytics after a jury ruled against one his clients in a personal injury case he thought was simple and straightforward

Alex Alvarez founded Momus Analytics after a jury ruled against one his clients in a personal injury case he thought was simple and straightforward 

Juries are selected through a process called voir dire, giving both prosecutors and defense attorneys an opportunity to evaluate jurors.

Alvarez believes that an additional analytical tool to help attorneys make better use of their limited time with jurors during voir dire could lead to better outcomes.

‘The voir dire system can be challenging given the very short time frame in which an attorney has to interview the jurors,’ Momus’s patent application argues.

Attorneys are allowed to question potential jurors before a trial in a process called voir dire, but they're only allowed to reject a limited number of jurors and often times aren't given enough time to research the backgrounds of the potential jurors

Attorneys are allowed to question potential jurors before a trial in a process called voir dire, but they’re only allowed to reject a limited number of jurors and often times aren’t given enough time to research the backgrounds of the potential jurors

WHAT IS VOIR DIRE?

Voir dire is a  process used to select jurors before a jury trial.

The term combines two French words, for ‘see’ and ‘speak,’ which colloquially means ‘to speak the truth.’

 Both prosecutors are allowed to question potential jurors to try and select candidates that they believe will be most suitable.

Depending on the state both prosecutors and defense attorneys are allowed to automatically disqualify a set number of jurors for any reason they like.

The number of times they are allowed to do this is generally limited to ensure the process doesn’t become interminable. 

‘You’re looking for people who need to be removed (from the jury pool) and your questions should be designed to uncover those who should be removed,’ attorney and jury expert Jeffery T. Frederick says of the process.

‘Attorneys are often given as little as thirty minutes or less to conduct the voir dire process. Challenges are available to each party in order to disqualify a juror, either for cause or without cause, depending on the biases the juror reveals…but no matter the number they are typically finite.’

‘Accordingly, a method or system to quickly evaluate a juror’s background for possible biases, within the short timeframe provided for voir dire, would be beneficial to an attorney seeking to select a favorable jury panel with a limited number of challenges available.’

Andrew Ferguson, a law professor at American University, cautions that the company’s approach may introduce its own set of unexamined biases, which could violate the law’s prohibition of race and gender discrimination in jury selection.

‘The idea that the algorithm is going to weight race or gender or other protected classes in a way that could be outcome determinative,’ he told Vice, ‘that’s a problem, because then you’re kind of tech-washing your racialized assumption of individuals,’

 

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