It is extremely important for an attorney to understand his audience in a high stakes jury selection process. When you are trying a case in front of a jury, it is all about persuasion. You have to understand human nature and how decisions are made. There is a theory in jury selection called Schema Theory, which theorizes that everyone has certain biases.
For example, people have certain beliefs about pharmaceutical companies, based upon their past experiences, their attitudes, their peers, what they read, and their feelings. Some people even believe pharmaceutical companies are evil. They believe that there is a cure for cancer that pharmaceutical companies do not want the people to know about it, because it would interfere with their ability to make huge profits. These people believe that doctors are part of the conspiracy and they cannot be trusted.
Obviously, if you have a case where you are defending a pharmaceutical company or a doctor, you are going to need to know each potential jurors’ schema, their feelings, and their attitudes, either for or against your client. Uncovering this information is something that you have to learn how to do through the voir dire process of jury selection. There are additional theories, where people are considered by their personality traits. If you have a case that has a strong emotional impact, there are certain types of people who might favor your approach. You really have to know the ideal jury profile for your type of case.
How Much Say Do Attorneys Really Have In The Jury Selection And High Stakes Cases?
A lot of times, in federal court, they really limit your ability to voir dire. Voir dire is a French term, which means to see and to speak. It is your first opportunity to speak directly to the jurors to try to understand if they have any attitudes or biases in your case. Some judges put a limit on how much time you can spend in selection. That is why, if you craft your questions carefully, you try to determine the schema. Most people do not really have a strong bias in any particular case. Sometimes they do, and then you have to try to focus on the types of personality traits. Jury selection is an art and a science. Depending on how much time the judge gives you, you can use different techniques to try to find a juror that would be favorable to your case.
Do Jury Selection Procedures Vary From Jurisdiction To Jurisdiction, State Court To Federal Court And Even From Judge To Judge?
In federal court, sometimes you cannot do any voir dire at all. Those times, the judge does the voir dire. Sometimes, they will give you limited opportunity, after the judge does his voir dire, to ask conditional questions. In state court, you can usually get more latitude to do voir dire. A lot of judges will ask attorneys to draft voir dire questions for the judge to ask. It varies a lot from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and from judge to judge.
How Much Of Your Client Side Do You Get To Relay To Potential Jurors during The Selection Process?
What you are trying to do, basically, is to figure out a certain tagline for your case. For example, in a case where your client’s business partners stole money from them, your tagline to the jury that you want to repeat over and over again is that these guys are crooks. You do it at the earliest possible opportunity, which includes jury selection. During your voir dire, you might want to ask the potential jurors, “Have you ever had a close relationship with a very trusted friend, and then something happened where you were completely shocked by the realization that they were not trustworthy?” If you ask that question to the jurors, some of them might identify with it. If you find the people that identify with it, those are the kind of people that you might want on your jury.
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