Voir dire done right
I am on a message board with plaintiff lawyers across the country in an invitational group I belong to who exchange ideas. An excellent trial lawyer in the South starts a trial Monday with some underlying issues that concerned her. I was interested in all the different ideas and approaches lawyers suggested. Some of these suggestions indicated to me that the lawyer making the suggestion thought that voir should involve carefully worded questions to convince and persuade. This is just not my idea of how a jury panel thinks. Here is my response for what it’s worth:
All this wonderful advice shows how individual we are in our ideas about trial and voir dire. I’m inspired to use it as an excuse to get on my soap box even though you don’t need this, so you can stop reading now. I know you are going to do a great job because I’ve seen your voir dire work and no one does a better of job of putting the jury in your client’s shoes then you do, but here you are anyway.
Gerry Spence and I spent the last week on our ownin Louisiana with our cameras taking photos and just using it as an excuse to not work. We talked about a lot of things including voir dire and theone basic thing we both thought wasthat credibility of the lawyer is a critical element of trial and itstarts in voir dire. The key thing one must do is to tell the truth to the jury about the issues that are significant and in the process show that you are truthful, open and honest.
When we have personal fears and concerns about issues in the case whichwe would rather nottalk about and we ignore ortry to conceal themwe donot give the jurors the same impression as when we simply tell them the truth and discuss itin anonjudgmental way. It is highly likely jurors have the same concernsas we do and when they see ourwillingness discuss it without trying to change their minds it shows that we arehonest and credible.
In my view a trial is always a battle of impression and not logic. Don’s book Reptile and research demonstrate the jurors are notintellectually reasoning to a logical conclusion during voir dire. They are forming impressions about the lawyers and the case.So, for me, it isn’t trying to convince them by thinking up language to convince them.It is, rather, first showing yourhonest willingness to discuss the issues that are giving you personal concerns andframing the issues in a way that impacts them personally in some way.
You’ll be great, I know, because you a great trial lawyer. —–
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