At a time when legal education calls for innovation, timeliness, and a progressive approach, Georgia State University College of Law Adjunct Professor Chris Timmons is at the forefront of the movement with a new jury selection course.
Timmons teaches a class called Advanced Issues in Trial Advocacy Seminar: Jury Selection, which is the first of its kind at the College of Law. The course is divided into two units, and it evolved during the semester because of a learning opportunity presented by the United States Of America v. Donald J. Trump lawsuit.
This strategic change in focus not only ensured that the course remained relevant, but it also provides students with a unique opportunity to analyze a case of unprecedented significance in real time.
“Before this class, I thought jury selection was simply asking jurors questions and documenting their verbal response,” said David Gaines (J.D. ’24) a law student in the jury selection class.
“Oftentimes we get that cursory glance into their background such as their familial dynamics or employment, but this is the first time I’ve seen what you truly need to know from jurors when selecting people for your case…Professor Timmons has taught us through hypothetical scenarios, people he knows personally, and through his own experience how your success or failure at not only selecting a jury but knowing how to learn who each juror is will be the deciding factor in your case,” Gaines said.
Timmons believes that jury selection is often overlooked. He puts it simply, "The most important part of any decision is the decider." With this conviction, he is on a mission to empower future attorneys with the skills they need to excel in this pivotal facet of litigation.
“The second half of the class was going to be jury selection in a trademark dispute. But with the Trump RICO case likely being the most publicized case ever and being almost literally in our backyard, we switched to the Trump RICO case as our case study for the second half of the semester,” said Timmons who is a trial lawyer, specializing in business litigation and employment cases at Knowles Gallant Timmons LLC and an expert in Georgia R.I.C.O. (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) law.
A standout moment of the semester was when Dr. Erin Tone, who is a psychology professor, director of clinical training, and chair of the Clinical Psychology Program at Georgia State University, delivered a guest lecture, discussing the nuances of body language and the psychology of jury selection. This cross-disciplinary experience has ignited Timmons' enthusiasm for broadening the course's scope.
In addition to being a civil litigator, Timmons spent 17 years as a prosecutor.
Notably, Timmons has become a leading voice for news media outlets covering the Trump indictment in Fulton County, Georgia. His involvement in this high-profile case has not only enriched his teaching but has also triggered a dynamic shift in the course's content, making it not just a theoretical exercise but a practical journey.
“My media experience helps me explain to my students the role the media plays in shaping the outcome of high-profile trials. One of the things I've learned from trying high-profile cases and now commenting on them for various national news outlets is the public relations aspect of those trials,” said Timmons who also serves as an ABC News Legal Contributor.
A significant part of the course covers a Batson challenge, which is a complex aspect of jury selection when someone objects to a juror being rejected from serving on the basis of their race, ethnicity, or gender during jury selection.
“Batson v. Kentucky is the U.S. Supreme Court decision that held that it is unconstitutional to strike a juror because of race. That prohibition has been expanded to include several other protected classifications,” Timmons said.
Timmons explained that making or defending a Batson challenge involves intricate statistical analysis that only the most proficient trial attorneys can accomplish. Fortunately, Georgia State students have proven to be more than up to the task, mastering this challenging skill with ease.
“I think I speak for the class when I say that we’ve learned a lot about professionalism, networking, and generally how to make it in a profession that’s insanely competitive by nature. I’m immensely thankful that the College of Law has offered this course, and that Professor Timmons has been able to teach us,” said Jackson Couch (J.D. ’24).
Looking ahead, Timmons envisions expanding the course into a three-hour interdisciplinary law and psychology seminar. He believes that this expanded course would be a thrilling experience for both law and psychology students, fostering an engaging learning environment that blends the intricacies of legal practice with the science of human behavior.
Timmons emphasized that jury selection is more than a mere academic exercise—it's an immersive journey through the heart of justice. Under his guidance, students are primed to not just understand this art but to master it, paving the way for a promising future in the legal profession.
-Written by Maya Carpenter