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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.

    jurors.jpg

         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

    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

    What Is It About "Don't Twitter" You Do Not Understand?

    Posted by Gale Burns on Mon, Dec 19, 2011 @ 16:12 PM

    December 14, 2011

    Jeffrey T. Frederick, Ph.D.

    A murder conviction and death penalty sentence were reversed and remanded in part because of tweets by a juror during trial. In a potentially game-changing decision, the Arkansas Supreme Court in Erickson Dimas-Martinez v. Arkansas, addressed an issue different from many other cases of Internet abuse by jurors. The issue facing the court was whether a juror's violation of the court's instruction by tweeting about the case denied the defendant a fair trial, not whether the content of the posts reflected bias or prejudice against the defendant. As such, the facts of tweeting and its timing during the trial proceedings are of interest.

    Prior to opening statements, the trial court gave an instruction which included:

    When you're back in the jury room, it's fine with me to use your cell phone if you need to call home or call business. Just remember, never discuss this case over your cell phone. And don't Twitter anybody about this case. That did happen down in Washington County and almost had a, a $15 million law verdict overthrown. So don't Twitter. Don't use your cell phone to talk to anybody about this case other than perhaps the length of the case or something like that.

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    Topics: jury research, Jeffrey T. Frederick, death penalty sentence reversed, Erickson Dimas-Martinez v. Arkansas, tweeting, bias to defendant, juror failure to follow court instruction was prej, failure to dismiss juror was abuse of discretion, potential for Internet abuse, instructions need to be more concrete, specific, repeatedly delivered, possible jurors' signing of pledge, U.S. v. Biktor Bout

    Did I Say That? Another Reason to Do Online Checks on Potential (and Trial) Jurors

    Posted by Gale Burns on Thu, Oct 13, 2011 @ 16:10 PM

    October 13, 2011

    Jeffrey T. Frederick, Ph.D.

    Sure, in highly publicized cases, we all ask potential jurors whether they have expressed an opinion to others or, perhaps, written a letter to the editor regarding the case. And we tend to rely on the answers jurors give—although I have been involved in a death penalty trial where a potential juror, as editor of a local newspaper, had "forgotten" that he had written an editorial supporting capital punishment. Fortunately, the defense attorney had a copy of the editorial.

    The Internet has vastly increased the opportunity for potential jurors to comment on cases before, during, and after trials. Jurors cannot only write letters to the editor, but they can voice their opinions on media websites and social networking sites (SNSs), e.g., Facebook and Twitter. And they do.

    Ah, I Forgot!

    A potential juror was recently held in contempt in an Oklahoma murder trial where Jerome Ersland, a pharmacist, had shot a robber five times after the robber lay wounded and motionless on the floor. While the potential juror had said that she had not expressed an opinion on the case, the defense discovered that she had made comments critical of the pharmacist on the local television's Facebook site six months before the trial. For example:

    "First hell yeah he need to do sometime!!! The young fella was already died from the gun shot wound to the head, then he came back with a diffrent gun and shot him 5 more times. Come let's be 4real it didn't make no sense!"

    The potential juror was removed from the jury pool. During a contempt hearing weeks later, the juror claimed she had forgotten she had made the six comments at issue and that she would have been fair to the pharmacist (who was convicted of first-degree murder). The judge refused to believe the juror, found her in contempt, and sentenced her to 100 hours of community service, which was to take place in the public defender's office.

    I Am Ready for the Verdict!

    OR, consider the juror who was ready to give her verdict halfway through the trial.  A Michigan juror posted on Facebook the following—"actually, excited for jury duty tomorrow. It's gonna be fun to tell the defendant they're GUILTY. :P." Unfortunately, this post occurred during a break between the end of the prosecution's case and the start of the defense. The judge was alerted to the post, and the juror was dismissed for misconduct, fined $250, and sentenced to write a five-page essay on the Sixth Amendment.

    We Did the Right Thing!

    Finally, consider the juror who defended the jury's guilty verdict.  A Virginia juror (under the username "Bedford") posted a defense of the jury's verdict on the website of the local paper, including the comment, "We were even given Jocelyn's journals," referring to the murdered victim's journals. Unfortunately, these journals had been excluded from evidence but had made it into the jury room, where jurors read aloud and passed around the journals. The judge sought and received the identity of the juror from the newspaper and subsequently declared a mistrial.

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    Topics: Internet, jury selection, Jeffrey T. Frederick, potential juror, social networking sites SNS, media websites, contempt citation, misconduct, Sixth Amendment, mistrial

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