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.