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Jury Research Blog

Mastering Group Voir Dire: Tip 5—Avoid the “Looking Good” Bias

Posted by Jeffrey T. Frederick, Ph.D. on Tue, Jun 13, 2017 @ 15:06 PM

June 7, 2017

Jeffrey T. Frederick, Ph.D.

            The initial tips in our Tips series have focused on setting the stage for effective voir dire (Tip 1; Tip 2; and Tip 3) and capitalizing on open-ended questions (Tip 4) to increase our understanding of jurors.  Now I turn to a major problem in jury selection, the looking good bias, and how to avoid evoking it in jurors. (Click here to see a short video for this tip.)

Looking Good Bias

            The “looking good” bias (i.e., the socially desirable response bias) is an impression management strategy designed to portray a positive image of oneself to others.  This bias promotes responses that are not true reflections of the individual’s beliefs or experiences, but reflect a desire by the individual to have others think positively of him or her.  In the case of jurors, this looking good bias fosters answers that reflect what jurors think the lawyer wants to hear or what they think are socially acceptable answers designed to create a positive impression of themselves. Obviously, this is exactly what we don’t want jurors to do. The looking good bias is fundamentally different from biases that can arise out of (a) exposure to case information whose influence is unrecognized by jurors or (b) implicit bias that reflects a general bias against a party.

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Topics: jury research, group voir dire, jury selection, Jeffrey T. Frederick, voir dire, trial consultant, questioning jurors, jury honesty, looking good bias

Mastering Group Voir Dire: Tip 4—Capitalize on Open-Ended Questions

Posted by Jeffrey T. Frederick, Ph.D. on Tue, May 16, 2017 @ 11:05 AM

 May 16, 2017

Jeffrey T. Frederick, Ph.D.

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     So far in the Tips series, the focus has been on setting the stage for effective voir dire by (a) treating voir dire as a conversation with jurors (Tip 1); (b) using techniques that help jurors feel comfortable with speaking in court (Tip 2); and capitalizing on the initial hand-raising technique to encourage participation in the voir dire process (Tip 3).  I turn now to the nature of the questions themselves, in particular open-ended versus closed-ended questions.  While both of these formats have their place in a well-conducted voir dire, one format, open-ended questions, deserves special attention. Knowing how and when to use open-ended questions can vastly improve your effectiveness in jury selection. (Click here to see a short video for this tip.)

Open-Ended v. Close-Ended Questions

     A major distinction in the phrasing of questions is whether the question is phrased in an open-ended versus closed-ended format.  Open-ended questions are those questions that do not provide the answer within the question itself.  These questions are often prefaced with phrases such as, “What do you think/feel/believe about . . .”; “Why?”; “In what way . . .”.  These questions focus jurors’ attention on the topic, yet leave it to them to formulate an answer. The following are examples of the open-ended approach:

“How do you feel about patients bringing lawsuits against doctors over the treatment they received?”

“What would your impression be of defendants in criminal trials who do not testify in their own defense?”

“What is your opinion of the law that allows for money damages designed to punish a defendant?”

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Topics: jury research, jury selection, Jeffrey T. Frederick, voir dire, voir dire setting, trial consultant, getting jurors to talk, questioning jurors, juror candor, juror honesty

Mastering Group Voir Dire: Tip 3—Capitalize on Initial Hand-Raising

Posted by Jeffrey T. Frederick, Ph.D. on Tue, Mar 21, 2017 @ 12:03 PM

March 23, 2017

Jeffrey T. Frederick, Ph.D.

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     In the first two tips in our series, I focused on encouraging attorneys to treat voir dire as a conversation with jurors (Tip 1) and to use techniques that help jurors become comfortable with speaking at the beginning of voir dire (Tip 2).  But much, if not most, of voir dire questioning relies on having jurors raise their hands in response to your questions.  Such hand-raising may be an end in itself or, as in many cases, is the gateway for follow-up individual questioning.  Whether it is questioning in smaller groups (e.g., 12-14 potential jurors or less) or much larger groups (20-30 or even 100 potential jurors), encouraging jurors to participate by raising their hands is of primary importance. While attorneys rely on jurors to raise their hands, jurors are often reluctant to do so.  Using techniques to encourage jurors to raise their hands at the beginning of voir dire (e.g., initial hand-raising) will help jurors feel more comfortable, fostering initial participation and setting the stage for greater participation as voir dire continues.  (Click here to see a short video for this tip.)

Initial Hand-Raising

     Just as we considered “breaking the ice” with jurors at the start of voir dire by asking all jurors to participate using the initial background summary technique (five initial questions) in Tip 2, we need to break the initial reluctance of jurors to raise their hands as well. There are two basic approaches to accomplishing this task. The goal of both approaches is to have everyone raise their hands, but each relies on different mechanisms to achieve this goal.  The first approach relies on peer support, while the second approach capitalizes on the qualifications that all jurors share in being in the jury venire.

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Topics: jury research, jury selection, Jeffrey T. Frederick, voir dire, voir dire setting, minimize uncomfortableness, trial consultant, getting jurors to talk, questioning jurors

Mastering Group Voir Dire: Tip 2—Getting Jurors to Talk from the Start

Posted by Jeffrey T. Frederick, Ph.D. on Fri, Jul 29, 2016 @ 10:07 AM

August 2, 2016

Jeffrey T. Frederick, Ph.D.120222_SCI_Jury_jpg_CROP_cq5dam_web_1280_1280_jpeg.jpg

    Voir dire can be an intimidating situation for the attorney—but just think what it is like for the potential jurors. Answering questions, often of a personal nature, in open court, in front of their fellow jurors, the judge, attorneys, and even the media can make anyone nervous and reluctant to talk. But talk they must if we are to have a useful voir dire.  Sure, you can ask potential jurors questions and hope that you get everyone to talk.  And, of course, you have seen Tip 1 and are ready to have a conversation with the jurors once they talk. But it is hard to have everyone talk at the beginning . . . or is it?  (Click here to see a short video for this tip.)

Initial Background Summary

     When faced with the intimidating nature of the voir dire questioning process, what can we do to encourage jurors to participate (both through talking and raising hands)? One approach is to help “break the ice” with jurors by having everyone talk at the outset of voir dire. Our goal is to reduce the jurors’ initial discomfort in speaking in this public setting by giving them practice in speaking in this setting. I refer to this approach as the Initial Background Summary. The key to this approach is to

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Topics: jury research, jury selection, Jeffrey T. Frederick, voir dire, voir dire setting, minimize uncomfortableness, trial consultant, getting jurors to talk

Mastering Group Voir Dire: Tip 1—Adopting the Proper Orientation for the Voir Dire Setting

Posted by Jeffrey T. Frederick, Ph.D. on Thu, Jul 7, 2016 @ 10:07 AM

July 7, 2016

Jeffrey T. Frederick, Ph.D.

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     As I mentioned in the introduction to this series on Mastering Group Voir Dire, group voir dire is the most challenging format for questioning jurors and getting them to respond honestly and candidly. The first tip in our series focuses less on the jurors and more on the attorney who is conducting voir dire questioning.  It is the orientation or approach that the attorney takes to the questioning process that sets the tone for voir dire. (Click here to see a short video for this tip.)

     How you approach voir dire goes a long way in determining the ultimate utility of the questioning process.  Will it be one where jurors are responsive, open, and candid?  Will it trigger attempts by jurors to engage in what social scientists call “impression management”—where jurors try to look their best and hide their real feelings? Or will it make jurors defensive, causing them to seek to limit their responses and overall participation? 

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Topics: jury research, group voir dire, jury selection, Jeffrey T. Frederick, group questioning, voir dire setting, body language and physical orientation, trial consultant

Trial Judges: Can We Talk?!—Supreme Court Case of Foster v. Chatman

Posted by Jeffrey T. Frederick, Ph.D. on Mon, Jun 13, 2016 @ 16:06 PM

June 13, 2016

Jeffrey T. Frederick, Ph.D.

     I usually address my posts to attorneys with suggestions concerning jury issues.  But today, I want to address trial judges (and attorneys) in light of the recent decision in Foster v. Chatman, 136 S. Ct. 290 (2016), concerning the discriminatory use of peremptory challenges.

Foster v. Chatman: Poster Child for Discriminatory Purpose

     First, some basic facts. Timothy Foster, a black man, was convicted of capital murder in Georgia in 1987, months after the landmark Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), decision banning discriminatory use of peremptory challenges based on race.  While five blacks were qualified during voir dire, none made it on the jury.  One black potential juror, Shirley Powell, was removed for cause the day peremptories were to be exercised (she came in to court and notified the court that she had a close friend who was related to Foster). The prosecutor used four of its challenges to remove the remaining black jurors. The defense raised a Batson challenge setting in motion the three-step Batson procedure: (a) the defense presents a prima facie case that a peremptory challenge had been exercised based on race; (b) the prosecution must provide “race neutral” explanations for its disputed exercise of peremptory challenges; and (c) the judge decides whether the defendant has shown purposeful discrimination.  It was this last step that was at issue in this case. 

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Topics: jury research, jury selection, Jeff Frederick, voir dire, peremptory challenge, Batson v. Kentucky, Foster v. Chatman

Announcing the Mastering Group Voir Dire Tips Series

Posted by Jeffrey T. Frederick, Ph.D. on Mon, Mar 7, 2016 @ 15:03 PM

March 7, 2016

Jeffrey T. Frederick, Ph.D.

Group voir dire is the most challenging format for questioning jurors and getting them to respond honestly and candidly. However, it is not hopeless. Over the course of this year, I will present a series of short tips on how you can conduct group voir dire more effectively and get the most out of this format.  I will address 10 tips using both blog posts and companion short, two-minute videos (check out the introduction here).  The tips will address the following topics:

     Tip 1:  Adopting the Proper Orientation for the Voir Dire Setting.  Whether you are questioning 6, 12, 20, or 40+ potential jurors, your approach to voir dire questioning—your orientation—plays a key role in how effective you will be.  Approaching the questioning process as a job interview, an interrogation, or a conversation determines how the jurors will respond to your questions and how useful their answers will be. Choose wisely—and be confident.

     Tip 2:  Getting Jurors to Talk from the Start.  Voir dire can be an intimidating situation for the attorney—but just think what it is like for the potential juror.  Answering questions, often of a personal nature, in open court, in front of their fellow jurors, the judge, attorneys, and even the media can make anyone nervous and reluctant to talk.  But talk they must if we are to have a useful voir dire.  Using the initial background method of having jurors answer five background questions is one way to help jurors feel more comfortable in speaking at the beginning of voir dire.

     Tip 3:  Capitalize on Initial Hand-Raising.  One of the basic ways jurors provide responses in group questioning is by raising their hands.  While attorneys rely on jurors to raise their hands, jurors are often reluctant to do so.  Using techniques to encourage jurors to raise their hands at the beginning of voir dire (e.g., initial hand-raising) will help jurors feel more comfortable, fostering initial participation and setting the stage for greater participation as voir dire continues.

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Topics: group voir dire, Jeffrey T. Frederick, juror bias, group questioning

When It Absolutely, Positively has to be . . . NOW?!!

Posted by Jeffrey T. Frederick, Ph.D. on Mon, Nov 30, 2015 @ 16:11 PM

Jeffrey T. Frederick, Ph.D.

Researching Potential Jurors During Voir Dire

     In many, if not most, jurisdictions, the list of potential jurors is made available to the parties at some point before the day jury selection begins. As a trial consultant, I am often called upon to conduct research on potential jurors before trial. This research consists of general Internet searches and utilizing sources like social media (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram), news media, publicly available databases (e.g., political contributions, parties in civil lawsuits, housing values, and other public records, etc.), and any custom databases developed specifically for the litigation. Discussions of these activities can be found in chapter 8, “Jurors and the Internet,” of my book Mastering Voir Dire and Jury Selection.

     However, what happens when you don’t get the jury list until the day of trial? Do you give up using information outside of what you can gather through voir dire? Obviously, the information uncovered during voir dire questioning is of primary importance. But outside information can be extremely valuable also. To further complicate the picture, let’s add an information collection target of two hours from the start of voir dire for a venire of 31 potential jurors. Well, a colleague and I recently faced this situation. What we did may get you thinking creatively also.

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Topics: jury research, jury selection, social media, voir dire

Member (Jury) Selection in General Courts Martial

Posted by Gale Burns on Mon, Sep 9, 2013 @ 16:09 PM

September 9, 2013

Jeffrey T. Frederick, Ph.D.

I was recently asked by the American Society of Trial Consultants (ASTC) to guest post on their
"Deliberations" blog and here is the result.

IN A WORLD . . .

where the convening authority selects the entire pool of potential panel members . . .

where the defense and prosecution each have potentially only one peremptory challenge, even in a death penalty case . . .

where challenges for cause are the only realistic method for removing potentially biased members . . .

No this is not the recent movie by the same name, IN A WORLD . . . , that opened in movie theaters last month. This is the world of general courts martial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). . . . For the remainder of the post, click here.

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Topics: military jury, convening authority, random selection, deliberations, American Society of Trial Consultants, voir dire in military trials, military court, Jeff Frederick, voir dire, courts-martial, UCMJ, liberal grant mandate, military courts, member selection, peremptory challenge, challenge for cause

See You on the Internet—Uh, I Mean, in Court: On Litigation-Based Websites

Posted by Gale Burns on Mon, Nov 5, 2012 @ 15:11 PM

 November 5, 2012

Jeffrey T. Frederick, Ph.D.

A relatively new strategy by litigants is to take their cases to the public, not through press conferences but through establishing a voice on the Internet. True, this is not new. Martha Stewart and Michael Jackson had websites that supported their legal cases, and former Chicago Governor Rob Blagoivich had a Facebook page. Discussions of these activities can be found in Chapter 8, Jurors and the Internet, of my book.

Several interesting developments have occurred since the early days of litigant PR websites. First, getting the message out is not as cost-prohibitive as in the early years. It is relatively inexpensive to develop a basic website, and it costs no money to establish a Facebook, MySpace, Google+, or Twitter account. For example, lawyers for George Zimmerman (the person charged in the death of Trayvon Martin) have established websites for information and fundraising, along with a Twitter account for updates and responses to activities concerning the case. While a Facebook page was established by the defense, it was later suspended because of the vitriolic comments posted by supporters and opponents of Mr. Zimmerman. In an interesting twist on the concept of litigant websites, the defendant (Reeco Richardson) in a stolen vehicle case has a website in his subsequent civil lawsuit filed against Maryland state and local officials for the alleged ramming by a police cruiser of a stolen vehicle in which he was a passenger. Attorneys for the defendant asserted that their website was in response to postings of case information on the Montgomery County Police Department website.

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Topics: jury research, Internet litigant websites, less cost-prohibitive, more detailed information, possible juror tainting, Jeff Frederick

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