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Reduce Attrition Rates of Sexual Assault Through Proper Charging Decisions and Effective Jury Selection Webinar
Monday, December 10th, 2018
10:00 AM PT/11:00 AM MT/12:00 PM CT/1:00 PM ET

This webinar is approximately 90 minutes long.

Course Description

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violence continue to be misunderstood by the average juror, prosecutor, and judge.Too many people still believe the outdated myths of "real rape" that shift blame from the offender to the survivor.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.



Sheila Polk, JD
Yavapai County Attorney, Yavapai County Attorney's Office, Prescott, AZ

Sheila Polk, County Attorney for Yavapai County, is a native Arizonan who received her Bachelor's Degree and Law Degree from Arizona State University. After clerking for Arizona Supreme Court Justice Jack Hays, Polk served in the Arizona Attorney General's Office for eleven years before moving to Yavapai County in 1994. There, she joined the Yavapai County Attorney's Office where she specialized in the prosecution of felony crimes, including elder abuse, sexual offenses and repeat felony offenders.

In November of 2000, Polk became the first woman to be elected to the position of Yavapai County Attorney, and is currently serving her fifth term in that position. In addition to overseeing a staff of 90 employees, a budget of $7 million, and active prosecutions, Polk has found time to be at the forefront of change. She assists as faculty with the CWAG Alliance Partnership, a cooperative initiative to strengthen the legal system in Mexico by training in programs that promote the consistent application of the rule of law disciplines, including oral advocacy. She serves on the Governor's Arizona Human Trafficking Council as chair of the Policy Committee.

In 2016, she worked on the Governor's Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit Task Force. Polk is the state chairperson for both the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys' Advisory Council (APAAC), and the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission (ACJC). Polk is Co-Chair and founding member of MATFORCE, the Yavapai County substance abuse coalition, nationally awarded the 2013 Outstanding Coalition of the Year. She is the driving stimulus behind the nationally renowned law enforcement course, What You Do Matters: Lessons from the Holocaust. In 2018, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum recognized Polk as an "agent of change" for her accomplishments at a national tribute dinner in Washington D.C.

Elizabeth Ortiz, JD
Executive Director, Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys' Advisory Council, Phoenix, AZ

Elizabeth Ortiz has a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics, a Master of Arts in Political Science, and a Juris Doctor. After graduating from lawschool, Ortiz clerked at the Arizona Court of Appeals. She then joined the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, in Phoenix, Arizona, where she prosecuted cases for sixteen years. During that time, Ortiz served as a Bureau Chief in Juvenile, Pretrial, Charging, and Appeals. In 2009, she joined the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys' Advisory Council ("APAAC") as the Senior Staff Attorney, and was subsequently named Executive Director.

In addition to her APAAC duties, Ortiz is a sworn special prosecutor in several Arizona counties, and continues to carry a criminal caseload. Ortiz is a board member of the National Association of Prosecutor Coordinators, the National District Attorney's Association, the Arizona Forensic Science Academy, and the Governor's Commission to Prevent Violence Against Women.

Further, Ortiz serves in leadership positions with her state and local bar associations. She teaches extensively throughout Arizona, the United States, and in Mexico on a wide variety of legal topics, and is a facilitator for the Lessons From the Holocaust: What You Do Matters course.

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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