‘Breakdown’ S02 Ep. 4: Deciding the case before it begins?


The most famous trial lawyers are known for their soaring oratory or for being flamboyant or combative or fast on their feet. But some of the most successful attorneys are the ones who know how to pick a jury.

In the trial of Justin Ross Harris, jury selection is a long and often tedious process that the public isn't paying much attention to. The courtroom is often only half-full. But some experts believe that the outcome of a trial is often sealed not by dramatic testimony or persuasive closing arguments, but by jury selection. In such cases, that is to say, the case is over before testimony ever begins.

This is Episode 4 of the second season of "Breakdown -- Death in a Hot Car: Mistake or Murder?," the AJC's exclusive podcast. Legal affairs writer Bill Rankin talks to attorneys who say that jury selection is always important, but in the Harris case it's absolutely crucial.

Rankin takes up another key issue in the trial: whether people really can forget that their children are in the back of the car and unwittingly leave them there. We reflexively say “no!” But a leading expert in memory and behavior offers a much more nuanced view.