Jury Selection/Voir Dire

With scientific information, attorneys can deselect jurors who are biased against their case.

In 1936 Clarence Darrow wrote an article about jury selection that was published by Esquire Magazine. In this article, Mr. Darrow wrote, “If a Presbyterian enters the jury box and carefully rolls up his umbrella, and calmly and critically sits down, let him go. He is cold as the grave.”

Clarence Darrow is one of the most renowned litigators in America trial history and if you follow his advice, then you and the esteemed Mr. Darrow will have one thing in common – you will both be mistaken. Demographics alone rarely parse favorable from unfavorable jurors.

What about those “jury whisperers” who claim to read subtle nonverbals that no one else, not even you, can see? Then it might be okay to follow Clarence Darrow’s advice: “Get rid of him with the fewest possible words before he contaminates the others.”

As phenomenal as Clarence Darrow was, modern litigators have a distinct advantage over him when it comes to jury selection. Modern litigators have the behavioral science advantage, which comes in two forms:

  • General Research – By the early 1970’s, sociology and psychology professors were busy researching how jurors reach verdicts. As a result, decades of research exists regarding juror characteristics and verdicts. The empirical results of these studies can provide guidance for jury selection. There is even some case specific research that has been replicated that provides guidance for jury selection in different types of civil and criminal cases.
  • Case Specific Research – Focus groups, mock trials, and supplemental jury questionnaires are forms of case specific research in which the characteristics of individual jurors is matched with the verdicts they may offer.  Case specific research can be used to develop a profile of pro-plaintiff and pro-defendant jurors. These juror profiles can be very helpful when making jury selection decisions.

A supplemental jury questionnaire (SJQ) is a questionnaire that can be sent to the venire in advance of the trial. Individual responses to the SJQ are given both parties and the court. Each party is free to analyze the data in the way that seems most appropriate to them. The professionals at Westlake Trial Consulting typically conduct statistical analyses designed to uncover reliable but sometimes hidden relationships in the data generated by the SJQ.

When a professional from Westlake Trial Consulting participates in jury selection, the purpose is to provide a perspective that is not readily available to most legal teams. Using general and case specific research, the professional from Westlake Trial Consulting offers input about jury selection that compliments the attorney’s jury selection strategy and techniques.

A tool often employed by Westlake Trial Consulting, LLC is the scaled question.  Westlake Trial Consulting typically develops scaled questions based upon general or case specific research. The scaled questions are presented during voir dire.  The responses to scaled questions by each juror is recorded, which leads to a numerical assessment of a potential juror.  Combining the scaled questions ratings with the attorney’s opinions about potential jurors results in an optimal mix of information for making jury selection decisions.