Picking a Jury—the Top Ten List
More has been written on selecting a jury than probably any other part of trial. Highlighted below— a la David Letterman’s Top Ten list—are the “Top Ten Jury Selection Points”:
10. Get your jury talking. A silent jury pool is a bad jury pool; it doesn’t matter what side you’re on. You can’t possibly make informed decisions about who to keep and who to excuse without listening to what they have to say.
9. Open-ended questions are preferred because they get jurors talking. There is a time and place for a closed-ended question: For example, in a personal injury case, you may ask “Is there any reason you would not give the plaintiff money for her wage loss?” But always followed up with an open-ended question.
8. Keep private matters private. It’s strange that this needs to be listed, but some lawyers read something marked “private” on a juror questionnaire and then ask about it in open court. Jurors need our discretion. If you really must find out about something marked “private,” ask for a sidebar with the judge. You owe the potential juror that much.
7. Follow the judge’s rules! Some judges don’t want you to ask about hardships or how long a juror can serve. Some judges want to ask a lot of questions before you get a turn. Follow the judge’s rules and you’ll keep the judge happy.
6. Practice, practice, practice. Jury selection may be the hardest part of the trial. You’re speaking with an audience of 30 to 60 people or more—so practice!
5. Let the jurors feed off of each other. If a juror is talking and you see other jurors nodding their heads, ask them about it.
4. Give jurors an “out”—an opportunity to express their concerns. For example, at the end of your questions, follow up with “Ladies and gentlemen, is there any reason you cannot be fair to my client? Maybe I forgot to ask you something. Maybe there is an issue you think I need to know about.”
3. Be yourself. Jurors can tell when you’re putting on an act.
2. A good jury consultant is worth his or her weight in gold! If you have a case that warrants the use of a jury consultant, hire the consultant and use that expertise to tell you what you need to know.
1. Remind jurors “ ’Tis better to not serve on a case sometimes.” Although jury duty is an important civic responsibility, it’s sometimes best that jurors not serve. Maybe aspects of the case makes it impossible for them to be fair and impartial. In that situation, remind them that there are other opportunities.
Picking a jury is one of the most important parts of a trial. Review this “Top Ten” list and keep these points in the back of your mind when you’re making your picks.
Jonathan G. Stein is a solo at the Law Offices of Jonathan G. Stein in Elk Grove, CA. Visit his Web site at www.jonathangstein.com .