New and young lawyers will definitely receive training on how to conduct voir dire. Unfortunately, training on how to properly conduct a post-trial interview of jurors is far less ubiquitous. Voir dire relies on assumptions about how a juror may respond to the facts and case presented. These assumptions are based on his or her background and other personal attributes. A properly conducted post-trial interview provides insight into the thoughts of a juror and the juror’s analysis of a case. Attorneys use post-trial juror interviews to openly discuss juror opinions. These interviews are especially useful to obtain feedback and analyze the effectiveness of the trial strategy, attorneys, and witnesses.
Attorneys can use post-trial juror interviews to determine where jurors could not agree. For instance, in a recent wrongful death case, the attorneys from both sides briefly interviewed jurors in the hallway after trial. This specific case ended in a hung jury. There was animosity among the jurors because of their inability to reach a verdict. A small group of jurors exited the court room and could not be interviewed. The remaining jurors congregated in small groups outside the courtroom. The attorneys spoke with the jurors, but any chance of effectively interviewing jurors was frustrated because of the attorneys’ inability to speak with jurors individually and away from opposing counsel. Neither side wanted to openly discuss juror opinions for fear of informing opposing counsel as to their theory of why the jury could not agree. However, these attorneys could have taken steps to better manage the post-trial interview process, as discussed below.
The first step to a successful trial interview is to understand local rules regarding communication with a juror. A trial court determines if and when a juror interview may occur. Some courts prohibit post-trial interviews while other courts allow them upon request. The majority of courts thank their jurors for their service and advise them that they may speak with the attorneys about the case, but jurors are also advised that they are not required to do so.
Many attorneys choose not to conduct juror interviews when the verdict is in their favor because attorneys fear the interview will reveal details that could lead to the verdict being overturned. While that may be a legitimate concern, if opposing counsel appears likely to appeal or if the verdict was against your client, then it is worth considering doing a post-trial juror interview.
Assuming a post-trial interview is allowed, the second step is to determine when the interview should take place. Before the trial concludes, decide when and where you will speak to the jurors. It is also helpful to think of the subject for your conversations. It is usually difficult to have any meaningful conversation with jurors immediately following trial because these conversations are often rushed. The conversations are rushed because some jurors may feel overwhelmed with the process and simply want to leave, but there is also the possibility that a juror may be talkative and you will not be able to break to speak to a different juror. It is most efficient to introduce yourself, thank the individual for jury service, and ask whether you can contact the individual later to discuss the case. Once you receive contact information, make the call within two to three weeks of trial and contact as many jurors as possible.