My friend Eric Fong is scheduled to start a major damage jury case in Seattle and we discussed jury selection ideas. That made me think I should post something in general about this subject.
- Have one sheet of paper with topics you want to cover – simple topics headings with large enough type you can glance at it and read it. Organize the topics by order of importance.
- Let someone else take notes. Maintain eye contact with the juror whenever the juror is talking.
- Remember to smile. When we are nervous we often look very serious and intent. Be friendly and kind.
IDEAS ABOUT JURY SELECTION
- It is a conversation and not an interrogation. Get them talking. You talk should be talking about 20% of the time and they should be talking 80% or more
- Do not be a lawyer and argue with them. You are there to listen. Let them say whatever they want even if they are attacking you and your case. Give the right to their opinions and be non-judgmental. Project credibility by acceptance of their right to their opinions. “I can understand that. I suspect there are other people who agree with you. Who else agrees with juror Smith? Why Who has a different view point?Why?”
- Your goal is not to convince them to your position or to persuade them by argument or logic your are right. What you are there for is to find out their significant value system and important life experiences through allowing them to be honest and conversational. Get them talking and then ask what the others think to keep it moving.
Important ideas for conservatives include the following ideas and each of them you can and should agree with as well as showing them how they support your case and not the defendants.
(1) Duty owed must be observed
(2) We are responsible for our actions and should be accountable for them
(3) The law should be enforced
(4) We must obey the law whether we agree or not
(5) Reject pleas based upon sympathy – justice, what is right, counts
(6) Family values and the family unit are important
(7) People should be held accountable for what they do
GENERAL JUROR PROFILES
The following are characteristics of importance, but they are broad simplistic generalizations which can’t be followed as a iron clad rule of selection.
(1) Leaders – always dangerous. Generally want to avoid as they take over jury. Avoid people with law connection as jurors will look to them for advice.
(2) Authoritarians – people who are deferential to authority will favor doctors, police etc.
(3) People with an axe to grind on any subject are dangerous
(4) Neutrals – do not carry any weight in absence of some other negative factor.
(5) Followers are influenced by the group dynamics and the leaders on the jury. Usually they are conservative.
IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT JURORS
Keep in mind these facts during jury selection:
(1) Once people have taken a firm public stand they are unlikely to change. That means if you get jurors to commit in front of the other jurors to matters they are very likely to stick to that position. This is important in trying to disqualify a juror (“not a case you feel you should decide” or “follow the law even if disagree”)
(2) People search for the rules to guide them in deciding case. What are the rules we are supposed to follow?
(3) Significant past experiences will guide their feelings and opinions now.
(4) Strongly held beliefs and values will trump everything
SUBJECTS TO COVER ON VOIR DIRE
- Discuss the key points in your case. Arrange issues by priority of importance. Cover only the most important issues.
- Search for juror strongly held values, opinions and beliefs
- Search for any significant life experiences that could impact case
- Ask general significant demographic questions, but don’t waste your time here
POINTS TO DISCUSS IN VOIR DIRE
- Preponderance only means more probably true then not (see David Ball)
- We are not after sympathy, but need to show facts to evaluate
- Must follow law agree or not
- Community interest in case
Discussion phrases include the following: (See David Ball Damages 3 for ideas)
- There are two areas I’d like to discuss with you: (1) your important life experiences that might help you decide this case and (2) your opinions about issues in the case
- Some people believe….(all doctors are right all the time) while others believe…..(doctors are human and can make mistakes)….Which way do you lean if only a little?
- Tell us more about that
- Use “looping questions” – when you get an answer from a juror use that answer in the question to another juror:
- Mrs Smith says there are too many lawsuits against doctors, what do you think?
- How do you feel about what juror Smith just said that it is important to pass knowledge on?
- Let me tell you why I am very glad you said what you did: It takes courage to say that in front of people. Who else on the jury feels the same way?
- Some people are uncomfortable about making decisions on a jury that might have an effect on the community. Others are OK with it. Which are you closer to
- Some people feel it is a good thing for jury verdicts have an effect on the community. Others disagree. Which are you closer to
- Who here would have a problem hearing both sides and deciding which rules you want in this community
- Some jurors feel the jury is the guardian of the community. Others are uncomfortable with that idea. Which are you closer to