Having spent nearly 40 years in the courtroom, both in the criminal and personal injury arenas, I’ve learned a thing or two about the jury selection process. At its best, it is akin to hitting the “sweet spot” on a baseball bat or a tennis racket. It just feels right. Things go precisely where you want them, people seem pleased with your performance, and you feel you are in complete control of your environment. At its worst, it resembles nothing short of a calamity of biblical proportions. A swift death would be the only event that could mercifully cap off the day.
Anyone who has ever tried a case to a jury knows all too well “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” Nowhere is that more evident than the jury selection process—voir dire. Voir dire is without question the most difficult, complex, and most critical part of a jury trial. Many mistakes made during the course of a trial may be corrected, but when they’re made in voir dire, they can be—and usually are—fatal. And here’s the worst part of it: they’re typically self-inflicted. Your opponent never outperforms you; you defeat yourself.