LOS ANGELES — The jury consultant whose idea of clever questioning helped secure a guilty verdict in the O.J. Simpson criminal trial, and who offered warnings about double-crossing potential jurors for a high-profile oil executive trial in Oklahoma, has been advising Kyle Rittenhouse’s legal team in the Washington sniper case.
That case has also spurred the emergence of another jury consultant, whom Rittenhouse tweeted earlier this year: “It’s certainly possible that I’m on media trial for this trial.”
That man is James F. Selznick, who has been listed as consultant to Rittenhouse’s legal team by West Coast law firm Klehm Thomas. The firm did not respond to inquiries from The Washington Post. Selznick, a national trial consultant, did not respond to requests for comment, and it is unclear what he is doing in the case. But the fact that he is helping the defense team is noteworthy: Prosecutors have sought to characterize the case as terrorized by Rittenhouse, an alleged “domestic extremist” who appears to embrace the rhetoric of the National Rifle Association.
Rittenhouse has an online background that’s devoid of contentious legal cases and a business model that is publicly classified. Aside from his client roster, he has shared advice on Twitter about the designs of Darth Vader and Wonder Woman t-shirts. In the late 1990s, Rittenhouse and his then-fiancée began working together on jury studies for the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, but the company was publicly dissolved in 2016. He has worked on other cases, however, such as the trial of James McGuire for the 2010 murder of a wealthy Massachusetts couple.
The latest incident of celebrity power-trials and consultant consulting has been described as resembling a film plot. A handful of innocent people, including Stephen Mitchell, a caterer, and the 12-year-old sister of Camiela Sturgis, a toddler, have been charged with the sniper killings. The sniper case was solved partly because of Selznick’s flamboyant practice of asking, in promising but frequently shady ways, prospective jurors about what they’d do if they ever met Sturgis.
On Twitter, Selznick has advocated for a litany of views – including gun control, or the right to resist violence – though his posts often appear based on research or ideas that other news stories have advanced. In mid-October, he tweeted about Erick Robert Borden, the majority leader of the Oklahoma Senate and a potential witness in the oil executive case. Selznick also tweeted his advice about the skills needed to survive questioning from a judge and jury – “one of those ther marks on your dress is that you have to goad the judge or jury into trying to tell you how to react” – and offered the advice of his then-wife: “Do not buy a belt! I was in trial once where I did not buy a belt because the judge felt that if I wear the belt in my hearing it would in some way slow down my growing pains. That was the best thing I ever did.”
The media has been intrigued by the role of the consultants, and more often than not, is lionizing them. During the O.J. Simpson trial, for example, a half-dozen consultants helped prepare potential jurors for questioning; a TV network reported that many of the candidates might end up on Simpson’s “dream team.”
The full, unedited version of Selznick’s 2011 posting advocating the case of the crossbow champion who had killed a man with his crossbow is here: