Reduce Attrition Rates of Sexual Assault Through Proper Charging Decisions and Effective Jury Selection

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90 Minutes

Originally Aired
December 10, 2018

Sheila Polk
Sheila Polk, JD
Yavapai County Attorney, Yavapai County Attorney’s Office
Elizabeth Ortiz
Elizabeth Ortiz, JD
Executive Director, Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council

Despite extensive research exploring the dynamics of sexual assault and common profiles of survivors and perpetrators, crimes of sexual violence continue to be misunderstood by the average juror, prosecutor, and judge.Too many people still believe the outdated myths of “real rape” that shift blame from the offender to the survivor. This webinar will dispel the myths of “real rape,” then focus on the charging decision and the art of jury selection for successful prosecutions of sexual assault offenders.

Prosecutors, much like the general public, frequently have a world-view of “real rape” that is based on myths, gender-based stereotypes, and implicit biases. This view can result in the rejection of cases for charging and, if the case is charged, in an ineffective and unsuccessful prosecution. This workshop will focus on the charging decision, the use of offender-based language in the courtroom, and effective jury selection with the goal of reducing the attrition of sexual assault cases in the criminal justice system.

The goal of voir dire (the questioning of prospective jurors) is to select a jury that can be fair to both sides and render a verdict based on the facts, not personal biases. In sexual assault cases, jury selection is also the opportunity to educate the jury about the myths of real rape; identify and strike jurors whose biases will interfere with their ability to render a fair verdict; and prepare the jury for difficult facts and the use of graphic terminology and evidence during the trial.

Through the use of interactive exercises, participants will gain the skills, knowledge and confidence necessary to make appropriate charging decisions and effectively select a jury in cases of sexual assault. This webinar will also equip participants with tools and knowledge to share with their colleagues in their own offices.


As a result of this session, participants will be better able to:

  • Understand the research and statistics on sexual assault in order to effectively educate judges and juries about sexual assault dynamics and common victim responses.
  • Recognize and confront the common myths of “real rape” and implicit biases that can affect a prosecutor’s charging decision.
  • Successfully select jurors who have a realistic understanding of the dynamics of sexual assault, and therefore more likely to be fair in their deliberations; and to identify jurors who might harbor mistaken beliefs and accept false mythology about sexual assault.
  • Practice improved courtroom communication skills, using offender-based language.
  • Take skills back to their respective offices to further instruct colleagues.

With a paid registration or subscription, you are free to personally listen to this webinar, as many times as you wish. You may also excerpt or cite the material following accepted conventions. However, you may not allow other individuals to listen to this webinar without their own registration or subscription.

This project is supported by Grant No. 2016-TA-AX-K010 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

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