Some key points to consider the day of voir dire

Do not bore the jury with prolonged or over-technical questions. Do not be repetitive to the point of irritating otherwise friendly jurors. Do not ask personal questions without obvious reasons, and then apologize for doing so. Do not cross-examine the jurors. Do not accept the first 12 jurors without questioning them (Gouldin, 1969). The jurors’ overall behavior should be evaluated – not just one response (Covington, 1985).

  • Look at verbal, nonverbal, and group behavior

Consider 2 basic sources of information when evaluating a juror’s opinions and attitudes: what they say and how they say it (Fredrick, 1989).

  • Look at the choice of words, compare responses to the defendant’s lawyer to responses to the plaintiff’s lawyer, and compare responses to background questioning to responses to critical issues
  • Study jurors’ voice inflections, facial expressions, and body movement

Two classes of nonverbal cues to deception: visual cues and auditory cues (Fredrick, 1989).

Five general visual cues:

  • Body movement- the greater the movement, the more likely the greater their anxiety.
  • Body orientation– the more open the orientation toward the speaker, the less anxiety.
  • Body rigidity- the greater the rigidity of the body posture, the greater the anxiety.
  • Eye contact- the greater the eye contact, the less the anxiety.
  • Facial expressions- are other cues consistent with facial expressions?

Five auditory cues:

  • Speech disturbances – the great the occurrence of “um’s,” repeated words, and unfinished sentences, consider anxiety or indecision.
  • Vocal hesitancy – the more frequent pauses or breaks occur in speaking, consider anxiousness or difficulty in formulating thoughts.
  • Rising pitch – as the level of anxiety and importance increases, the pitch of the juror’s voice may increase.
  • The tone of voice – cold and condescending can indicate deception or emotional distancing.
  • Word choice – using words that reflect the greater psychological distance between themselves and others to which they are referring (i.e. “them” instead of labeling a particular minority group) can indicate negative feelings.

The key to your observations: notice changes (Frederick, 1989).

When questions are confusing to the juror, to whom does the juror look to for clarification or support? This may indicate where he or she will look during the trial (Frederick, 1969).

Observe nonverbal behavior while the jurors are listening to the judge’s instruction to the case and when the parties in dispute are introduced – pay attention to where the jurors look and their reactions (Frederick, 1989).

Rules to follow when making the actual selection (Goulding, 1969):

  • Consult with your client before making your final selection, regardless of your belief in their appreciation for what you are asking.
  • If you have sufficient peremptory challenges left, do not leave on the jury someone whom your client objects or with whom you feel uncomfortable.

For References used in this fact sheet, please contact Dr. Manges & Associates, Inc.  

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