In the Latest NWLawyer: Fundamental Concepts for Jury Selection

Cover of February 2016 NWLawyer

In the February 2016 issue of NWLawyer, trial attorney Paul Luvera shares his top 10 tips for jury selection — along with some memorable quotes from great thinkers. Here are a few of our favorites.

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else.”

Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar was fond of saying this to his audiences, and it is equally applicable to jury selection. Before starting, we need to know what our goal is. The ultimate goal for jury selection should be to create open, frank, and nonjudgmental discussion that reveals information about the potential juror. The objective is to learn jurors’ deeply held values, their significant past life experiences, and their attitudes about the relevant issues in the case. These are the things that determine how people make decisions. You want to end up with a bonded group, without significant bias.

“It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself.”

These words of Eleanor Roosevelt apply to jury selection. The well-known principle of psychology, reciprocity provides we feel obligated to give something in return when we are given something as a favor. In jury selection, reciprocity means if we want jurors to be motivated to share with us, we should first share with them.

Our sharing might be something as simple as truthfully saying to the jurors: “As many times as I have talked to jurors at the start of a trial, I still feel nervous. I’m wondering whether any of you might be feeling nervous, too.” Try acknowledging your own feelings before asking jurors to share theirs.

“Three things cannot be hidden: The sun, the moon, and the truth.”

Buddha said this about honesty. As advocates, we should be truthful and honest with jurors not only because it is ethically right but because it creates a favorable impression about our honesty and trustworthiness. Jurors are looking for someone they can trust. When we truthfully share “the good, the bad, and the ugly” about the issues in our case, we promote an attitude of trust on the part of the jurors.

It also benefits us regarding the principle of deconditioning. The more we expose negative information about a subject, the weaker the reaction to it becomes. Certainly, we need to frame the information in the best possible light, but honesty, in this regard, carries its own rewards.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

When Dale Carnegie wrote those words in 1936, he was not talking about jury selection, but he could have been. Remember, jury selection is not a cross-examination, nor persuading the juror you are right, nor an interrogation, but rather a process encouraging discussion to learn about the jurors.

We encourage discussion by stressing there are no right and wrong answers. Assure jurors that they will not be judged adversely for speaking truthfully. Try to get everyone to talk about themselves or their views. Use open-ended general questions, such as, “Can you tell us about that experience?” or “How do you feel about (subject)?” or “What are your thoughts about (subject)?” Involve the others by asking, “How many of you agree?” followed by “Why?” Repeat the process for those who disagree. Be nonjudgmental. Accept their views.

“What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson was right. Our nonverbal communication speaks louder than words. We subconsciously react to nonverbal cues and behavior including posture, facial expression, eye, gesturing, and tone of voice. How we stand, where we stand, and where we hold our hands while talking to the jury communicate a great deal. Our stance should be open, our arms uncrossed, and our gestures congruent with what we are saying. We need to honor the juror’s privacy space by not getting too close. The juror’s impression of us will be affected by how loudly we speak, our tone, and the pace of our speech. We tend to believe self-confident and assured speakers but and reject arrogance in word and appearance. Be conscious of all nonverbal impressions.

For the rest of Paul’s helpful tips and other great features, read the February 2016 issue of NWLawyer online.