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    Jury Research Blog

    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, questioning jurors, trial consultant, getting jurors to talk, 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.


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

    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.


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

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