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    Jury Research Blog

    Mastering Group Voir Dire: Tip 7—Contrasting Important Viewpoints Within the Same Question

    Posted by Jeffrey T. Frederick, Ph.D. on Tue, May 8, 2018 @ 13:05 PM

    May 8, 2018

    Jeffrey T. Frederick, Ph.D.

    Tip 7-1  

              So far, our Tips series has focused on setting the stage for effective voir dire (Tip 1; Tip 2; and Tip 3), capitalizing on open-ended questions to increase our understanding of jurors (Tip 4), avoiding the “looking good” bias (Tip 5), and crafting questions with the “bad” answer in mind (Tip 6). Our next tip addresses asking questions that contrast important positions within the same question. (Click here to see a short video for this tip.)

    Contrasting Viewpoints or Positions

                The primary goal of voir dire and jury selection is to identify potential jurors who have a favorable or unfavorable initial orientation toward your case, ideally based on their beliefs, opinions, and values.  Often the questions asked of jurors in pursuing this goal address a single value, position, or viewpoint.  For example, “How many of you believe that the most important goal of sentencing in our criminal justice system is to punish those convicted of violent crimes?” Addressing a single position or viewpoint in one question has value, but this is not the only way to uncover critical opinions held by jurors. An alternate method is to contrast potentially opposing positions or viewpoints in the preface to the question and then ask jurors to choose which position is closer to their own. Consider the following examples.

                “There are several viewpoints on the importance of various goals in our criminal justice system for the sentencing of those convicted of violent crimes. One view is that the most important goal is to punish those who commit violent crimes.  A second view is that the most important goal is to rehabilitate those who commit such crimes. (It is possible to add other goals here.)  Which of these viewpoints is closer to your view?”

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

    ABA Publishing Announces the Release of Two Books on Jury Selection by Jeffrey T. Frederick, Ph.D.

    Posted by Jeffrey T. Frederick, Ph.D. on Tue, Feb 27, 2018 @ 11:02 AM

    February 27, 2018

    Jeffrey T. Frederick, Ph.D.

    ABA Publishing Announces the Release of Two Books on Jury Selection by Jeffrey T. Frederick, Ph.D.

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         The American Bar Association’s Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division announces the publication of two books on jury selection by one of the nation’s most experienced trial consultants. Since Mastering Voir Dire and Jury Selection: Gain an Edge in Questioning and Selecting Your Jury first appeared in 1995, its content has continually evolved, responding to changes in the law, social science research, and developments in jury trials. Its newly revised Fourth Edition includes an extensive discussion of the opportunities and challenges presented by the prevalence of the Internet and social media in jurors’ lives, and the applications of civilian voir dire and jury selection techniques to military courts-martial.  The second book, Mastering Voir Dire and Jury Selection: Supplemental Juror Questionnaires, serves as a companion to the Fourth Edition. The book examines how to develop and use supplemental juror questionnaires and provides supplemental questionnaires used in more than 20 significant criminal and civil trials across the nation.

    Mastering Voir Dire and Jury Selection: Gain an Edge in Questioning and Selecting Your Jury, Fourth Edition

         This much anticipated and expanded fourth edition goes beyond other books on jury selection and focuses on the skills needed to conduct effective voir dire and jury selection, ultimately improving your chances of a favorable verdict at trial. This valuable guide will help you understand effective voir dire and jury selection strategies and adapt them to the unique circumstances you face in your trial jurisdiction.

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    Topics: jury research, group voir dire, jury selection, social media, juror questionnaires, Jeffrey T. Frederick, voir dire, trial consultant, questioning jurors, jury honesty, nonverbal communication, social media and jurors, Internet research, agenda jurors, common problems in jury selection, juror misconduct, challenges for cause, how to ask questions for jurors, peremptory challenges, Batson, individual voir dire

    Mastering Group Voir Dire: Tip 6—Craft Questions With the “Bad” Answer in Mind

    Posted by Jeffrey T. Frederick, Ph.D. on Fri, Feb 9, 2018 @ 09:02 AM

    February 8, 2018

    Jeffrey T. Frederick, Ph.D.

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         So far, our Tips series has focused on setting the stage for effective voir dire (Tip 1; Tip 2; and Tip 3), capitalizing on open-ended questions to increase our understanding of jurors (Tip 4), and avoiding the “looking good” bias (Tip 5). Our next tip addresses potential “bad” answers and how to use them to ask better questions and get better overall results. (Click here to see a short video for this tip.)

    Bad Answers

         Our goal in jury selection is to identify potentially unfavorable jurors whom we need to remove either through challenges for cause or peremptory challenges. The unfavorability of jurors is primarily based on their having opinions and values that would lead them to view your client’s case negatively or, conversely, to view your opponent’s case positively.  While jurors certainly may have had relevant negative experiences or work experiences in areas unfavorable to a client, our attention here is on the jurors’ unfavorable opinions and values themselves.  That is, we look for the unfavorable opinions and values, what we term “bad” answers, as reflected in what jurors tell us during voir dire (or on supplemental juror questionnaires).  The following are a few of the topic areas where “bad” answers are likely found:

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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 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

    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

    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

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