September 2015 Bar Bulletin
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September 2015 Bar Bulletin

Predicting the Unpredictable: Voir Dire and Jury Selection Resources

By Rick Stroup
Assistant Director

 

Selecting proper jurors is a messy business. Is the process art or science or both? Should it be left to the intuition of experienced trial lawyers, and if so where does that leave new practitioners who are in the process of building those skills? Or is it best handled by a trial consultant who specializes in one or more of the demographic and social science methodologies in use in some of today's courtrooms, and if so how do you determine when that cost is warranted?

According to one resource, there are six goals to the jury selection process. According to another, there are only four. According to one, seating an impartial jury is the ultimate goal. According to another, making sure the one juror who is likely to submarine your case is not seated is really what it's all about.

On top of all of this, there is the truly murky question of the influence of the Internet and social media on jury selection, juror bias and juror misconduct. Fortunately, the Public Law Library can help. Summarized below are three of the resources in our collection that discuss in some length all of these "big picture" issues as well as the genuinely practical aspects of voir dire and jury selection.

Mastering Voir Dire and Jury Selection: Gain an Edge in Questioning and Selecting Your Jury, by Jeffrey T. Frederick (shelved at KF 8979 .F74): Mastering Voir Dire appears at first glance to be a sort of "soft-bound survey" of the jury selection topic, but in fact has a wealth of practical, detailed information.

Chapters of note include Chapter 3 - Understanding Jurors' Nonverbal Communication; Chapter 6 - Common Situations and Problems in Voir Dire; and Chapter 8 - Jurors and the Internet. It also includes a substantial set of appendices, which includes select civil and criminal voir dire questions and a sample Batson motion memorandum.

Blue's Guide to Jury Selection, by Lisa Blue and Robert B. Hirschhorn (shelved at KF 8979 .B58): That the authors are forthright in calling some potential jurors "bad" or admitting that some stereotyping is a necessary evil in jury selection is indicative of the straightforward, no-nonsense way in which Blue's Guide is written.

Notable portions include Chapter 2 - Getting to Know the Judge; Chapter 5 - Approaching Jury Questionnaires Wisely; Chapter 11 - What You Really Need to Know about Batson; and Chapter 27 - Jurors to Watch Out For.

Trial by Jury 2013, edited by David R. Marriott (shelved at KF9872 .T75): Trial by Jury is a popular Practising Law Institute series. We have yet to receive the 2015 edition because that seminar hasn't been held as of this writing.


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