Not everyone who gets called to jury duty gets accepted, and even those that do aren’t chosen randomly. In truth, the methods attorneys use to pick jurors are very specific, and they matter a great deal. The right jury selection can turn a case for or against one side right from the beginning.
Selecting a jury is among the most critical aspects of any trial. It requires a great deal of insight, intuition and understanding people. Most people called for jury duty don’t want to be there, which makes it even harder for attorneys to choose the right members. Learn about the process of jury selection, how lawyers pick jurors, and why it matters, as well as why having the right attorney can make all the difference.
The Process of Voir Dire
Voir Dire is the process of interviewing potential jurors, a preliminary interview where each side gets to talk to the jury. This is a key part of how lawyers pick jurors. It affords the attorney the opportunity to work out bias, pick those jurors that will most benefit their case, and eliminate those who present a danger or a problem.
They key in voir dire is to keep the jurors talking. If the attorney is doing too much of the talking, that’s a real problem. You don’t learn anything by listening to yourself. That’s why attorneys will keep their questions brief and to the point, and will follow up to guide a conversation with the juror. It’s all about seeing through the masks that everyone wears on a daily basis, and finding the truth underneath.
Jury Selection from the Plaintiff’s Side
Juries fulfill one of the most vital roles in the jury trial. It is, after all, the jury that decides the verdict of a case, who wins and who loses. From the plaintiff’s standpoint, they are a chance to get justice and hold a guilty party accountable for a crime or other wrong. In a civil case, the jury will determine the degree of fault any given party holds, which will have a direct effect on the award amount you will receive.
From the side of the plaintiff, jury selection is actually much more a process of dismissal than selection; that is, your attorney wants to weed out undesirable members. In this case, “undesirable” means people who are likely to sympathize with the defense. The goal is to remove jurors who won’t identify with the plaintiff and what they have suffered at the hands of the defendant.
The plaintiff always goes first, which means they get to set the tone for jury selection. Especially in an injury suit or wrongful death case, the goal is to get the jury to sympathize with the suffering of their client.
Prosecution or Plaintiff Jurors: the Good and the Bad
When the plaintiff picks jurors, they’re looking for those who are very sympathetic, who are willing to view the prosecution as the victim in the case. Very often, union employees make for good prosecution jurors as they are used to fighting injustice. People who are prone to look unfavorably on big corporations are good for cases like product liability and trucking accident cases.
What most prosecution cases don’t want are jurors that have connections to big corporations or insurance companies. They don’t want small business owners, HR personnel, or people who have been involved on the prosecution side of their own personal injury cases. In addition, you don’t want people who favor tort reform, or are vocally opposed to “frivolous lawsuits.”
How Lawyers Pick Jurors for the Defense
The defense, on the other hand, wants the exact opposite. They’re looking for jurors who will be predisposed against the prosecution. This, however, requires a careful balancing act. The plaintiff will tell a jury a story of how their client was victimized by the defense, how they’ve suffered at the hands of the defendant. The defense can’t afford to try and demonize the plaintiff, as this makes the defendant look very negative.
The defense will make an effort to look sympathetic to what the plaintiff has suffered, but will seek to explain why their client isn’t responsible for what happened. It’s a case of proper storytelling, humanizing the defense, and not spending a great deal of time overeducating the jury.
Since the defense goes second in jury selection, they need to adapt and adjust to the tactics established by the prosecution. They need to listen carefully to what’s being asked and the answers that are given.
Good Jurors for the Defense
From a defense standpoint, most of the jurors that look bad for the prosecution are good for the defense. You want people who can relate to the defense, and who were on the defending end of an injury case. You want business owners and managers and people who are connected to insurance providers, those in favor of tort reform and those who have a disdain for these kinds of lawsuits.
Of course, every case is unique, and these general guidelines can differ greatly from juror to juror. That’s why it’s so important for attorneys to carefully listen and talk to their potential jurors to get a feel for how the individual case will be viewed.
In the end, jury selection is all about telling a story for both sides of the equation.
How Lawyers Pick Jurors – General Guidelines
There are a number of basic guidelines that many attorneys will follow when picking jurors. The most basic of these, is to just make a choice. A lawyer can do all the planning they like, but when they’re face-to-face with potential jurors and the other side has their say, all that planning can go out the window. You have to be willing to adapt, adjust, and go with it.
It’s in many ways kind of like a blind date. Neither side knows anything about the other, and everyone has expectations and desires. It’s important to have the foresight and intuition to know what to ask and what answers you’re looking to get. It’s always better to find out the truth of your potential jurors up front. If someone is caught in a lie, they’re probably not a good juror.
A good attorney will never use big words or heavy legal terms during voir dire. Rather, they’ll be straightforward and talk like they would in any social occasion. They won’t, for example, say “voir dire.” Rather, they’ll say, “jury selection.” They won’t say, “credibility.” They’ll say, “believability.” It’s about being relatable and putting the jury at ease so they’re more likely to open up and be truthful.
Jury selection is a bit like a ping pong, volleyball or tennis game where there’s no out of bounds. The ball is always in motion, and there’s a constant back-and-forth going, where it’s important to always react to what you’re getting, without hesitation. It’s about honesty on both sides, about fostering communication that bares everyone’s motives.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a good attorney in the process of jury selection will understand that nobody in the room is fair or unbiased, and that not a one of them cares about the case. By proceeding from this assumption, they have the best chance of finding a jury that may be willing to accept their position.
The Importance of Jury Selection
Picking the right jury is the difference between winning and losing a case. The greatest mistake that an attorney will make is trying to find a jury that’s biased towards their side, rather than trying to find one that’s as impartial as possible. Trying to find a jury that’s anything less than fair can be a fast path to losing a case, and a good lawyer knows this.
Selecting the jury is the only time an attorney has the opportunity to discover the life experiences, biases, beliefs, and attitudes of the people who will decide their case. The last thing any attorney wants is for bias to come out during the trial. Thus, how lawyers pick jurors is an essential indicator of the experience and knowledge that attorney has. Knowing the leanings of your jury beforehand can allow you to adjust and adapt during the court case.
Call Eglet Prince
If you’re in Nevada and you need help with your personal injury case from attorneys with all the knowledge, skill, education and compassion you need, Eglet Prince is the answer. Whether you want more information about how lawyers pick jurors or you’re looking at jury selection in your own case, we’ve won more multi-million dollar verdicts than any other catastrophic personal injury law firm in Nevada, and represent hundreds of such cases every year. We’ve got the know-how and experience you need. Give us a call for a free case consultation today.