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  • Writer's pictureJessica Brylo

Don’t Focus on Picking Your Jury…YET

Are you bad at “picking” juries? Perhaps that’s not the issue…

First, there is a valid debate these days on whether we select or deselect jurors. If you follow Sari De La Motte, your goal is to invite jurors onto your jury who share the vision of your case, and deselection is a byproduct of that process. If you follow more conventional methods (David Ball and others), you search for “bad” jurors to remove from the panel.

I would argue that jury selection should be a bit of both, weighted to one side or another based on your personality, the time you are given, and your skill level (all of which can be shifted and improved, but not usually within a week of trial!).

But far more critical than those considerations are your comfort, skills, and abilities when it comes to (1) crafting useful questions and (2) delivering those questions in a manner that elicits truthful responses, incites dialogue, and gains juror trust. This is no easy feat, and perhaps because of the time and devotion required to learn how to accomplish these two “simple” things, most attorneys gloss over it.

Instead, they ask, “who should I eliminate?” or “Do I have a good jury?” or “Did I mess up by leaving someone on?” However, none of these questions matter if you have not yet done the work to learn HOW to do a proper and effective voir dire. The vast majority of attorneys who hire me to come and “pick their jury” have yet to learn these skills and, though it would be more work, should be putting money into having me (or someone else qualified to do so) train them on delivery, methodology, and connection, rather than focusing on the end goal. You must first pave the path before you can meet that end goal. Will a jury consultant see the good and bad jurors better than you? Perhaps. But, we would have a lot more information if you conduct a clear, connection-based voir dire. The vast amount of information you can gain from a carefully crafted voir dire that is ALSO delivered well may be shocking if you have never done so.

Critically important is the fact that voir dire is essential not only for selecting your jury but also for setting you up for opening and the rest of trial. Aside from the jurors you pick, a poorly conducted voir dire will taint the rest of your case.

Don’t focus on the strikes…yet. Instead, focus on the skill, and the strikes will reveal themselves. In addition, you will then have set the foundation for trial.

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