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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Voir Dire & Jury Selection - Getting Off on the Right Foot

I thought I would post about getting jury selection classes off on the right foot.  I believe someone somewhere said that to begin well is to end well so I thought I'd share what I do for what it is worth.

I begin my classes with students on voir dire by reviewing the reasons we conduct voir dire:

·   Identify jurors to challenge for cause
·   Identify jurors to peremptorily challenge
·   Educate potential jurors about facts in the case
·   Educate potential jurors about the legal issues
·   Eliminate shocks and surprises
·   Obtain promises of fairness
·   Develop rapport with the jury pool

I start by telling students that their goal during voir dire is to get rid of those jurors whose life experiences prevent them from fairly considering their case.  I tell them to look for bias.  I also warn them that the potential jury members know you are judging them and they will be defensive because of it. I then bring them back to their recent advocacy classes and how they now know exactly how much no one likes to be judged. 

Students need to understand that they have immense power over the potential jury members.  They must remember that they are before are group of individuals who are there because they have been told they have to be there.  This is a world that is not their world.  One way to effectively begin an inquiry is to give the members of the jury the authority and power to do something.  It can be as simple as asking them to take an action in response to your questions.  I suggest that they might begin as follows:

Q:        Good morning ladies and gentlemen.  My name is Charles Rose and I am the attorney for the plaintiff in this case.  I will be asking a series of questions today some of which will require a yes or no answer.  Could we all agree that if the answer to my question is yes you will raise your right hand?  Why don't we try that out now?  If you agree to answer yes by raising your right hand please do so?  Let the record reflect that all prospective jury members have complied with my request and have raised their right hands.

Q:        Very good.  Let's start with a couple simple questions, how many of you have served on a jury before?  A positive response from number19.

Q:        Number 19.  What did that case involve?

Starting this way quickly involves the jury in responding to your questions.  This requires them to actually listen and respond.  Notice how the process is to get the potential jury members talking. 

From this point I then go into how to identify case driven questions, but since others have more than adequately covered that topic I shall bid you adieu for the evening.

All the best,


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