Effective Jury Selection: It's Not Only What Potential Jurors Say, But It's How They Say It

Examining Nonverbal Communication

The following was adapted with permission from Mastering Voir Dire and Jury Selection: Gaining an Edge in Questioning and Selecting a Jury (ABA Press, 1995). A more comprehensive discussion can be found in Chapter 3 of that publication.

Types of Nonverbal Communication

One of the most important ways people communicate has nothing to do with the content of what they say, especially when it comes to their opinions and emotions. Studies have shown that from 60% to 65% of people's total communication occurs through what are termed nonverbal behaviors. Considerable attention has been paid to the presence of anxiety in nonverbal communication, particularly in detecting when someone is lying. When people are anxious because of sensitivity to the subject matter, general nervousness, or a wish to deceive, they can "leak" their anxiety (and other feelings) through a variety of nonverbal behaviors. Lawyers can uncover the underlying opinions, feelings, biases, and evasion attempts on the part of potential jurors during jury selection by paying attention to the information contained in two types of nonverbal communication: visual cues and auditory cues.

Visual Cues

The first category of cues comprises what is seen in the potential juror's behavior, such as movements...

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