TEN DO’S OF VOIR DIRE
1. Be Yourself. Be relaxed about who you are. The jury will appreciate your genuineness, and would dislike any affectations.
2. Think in advance About the types of Jurors that You Would Generally Favor. Just by the facts of the case alone, you can do some thinking about whether you would like young or old, large or small, men or women, friendly or stern, tall or short, bespectacled or 20-20, and the like. It will help if you have done some thinking about this in advance.
3. Talk to Everyone. If some person gives no response whatsoever, engage them in questions during the individual questioning portion. Do not end voir dire without having spoken with everyone and had them speak to you.
4. Learn About Jobs. If someone puts that they are retired or unemployed, ask about what type of work they have done. Also, learn about the jobs of spouses. You will then know what type of subjects have been discussed around dinner tables for years, and this is a key to a person’s attitudinal leanings.
5. Look For Leaders. It is extremely important to determine who could and would be the leader on the jury. Then, determine if that is the type of person who would lead for you or against you.
6. Keep Your eyes on the Panel. You can do this by having someone else there to take notes for you or by just trusting you memory more. It is important to maintain as much eye contact as possible. You will pick up many cues, and the jury will feel more like they have had some conversation with you.
7. Trust Your Feelings. Gerry Spence reminds us that we can look across crowded rooms and determine which people we would like to get to know. He suggests that we ask ourselves whether or not a panel member is the type of person with whom we would like to walk in the mountains and learn more about.
8. Do Tort Reform/Justice System Attitude Questioning. We live in a time when there are many attitudes about tort reform and the justice system. These should be explored, since they can be overwhelming factors in the jury room.
9. Defuse Problems. Let the jury know now about problems that exist in your case. Let them get comfortable with it. Ask if anyone has such intense bias or prejudice because of some certain fact that they cold not be fair to all parties.
10. Sound Your Theme. A good trial lawyer has a theme which will run from voir dire through closing argument. Questions can be framed to sound that theme at the very beginning of the case.
TEN DON’TS OF VOIR DIRE
1. DON’T Be Nervous About being Nervous. It is natural to be nervous. However, everyone should avoid overlaying natural nervousness with a second layer of nervousness based on the inability to calm down. Just let the natural nervousness flow. It merely demonstrates that you care about what you are doing.
2. DON’T Speak Softly. Judges and panel members appreciate attorneys who stand up and speak loudly enough to be heard well and confidently enough to be believed.
3. DON’T Be Afraid to Ask the Judge for Help in Asking Certain Questions. If a question carries too much prejudice for you to ask it, many trial judges will be enlightened and intrigued about the case.
4. DON’T Be Dull or “A Potted Plant.” Trial lawyers are too often boring. Try to be lively and interesting so that the panel members will be enlightened and intrigues about the case.
5. DON’T Be Stuffy. Many jurors expect to find lawyers stuffy and stiff. Try to avoid that. On the other hand, do not pretend to be down-home or folksy if that is not you. Just be yourself.
6. DON’T Be Goofy. This is presumably a serious matter. You can feel free to smile or even laugh if something funny happens. Do not try too hard to create it. The panel should know that you are serious about the case.
7. DON’T Be Disorganized. The jury will be watching to see whether or not your case is fully prepared. This is your earliest opportunity to demonstrate that you have prepared the case and are ready to try it.
8. DON’T Mislead the Panel in Any Way. You will suffer greatly if you do anything at this point which the jury would later feel was misleading. Make every effort to get the initiative now in terms of the jury knowing that you are someone who can be trusted for the truth.
9. DON’T Try to Cheat. Do not compose questions which argue the case, instruct the jury on the law, try to commit the jury, or in any other way are obviously improper and objectionable. This will cheapen you in the eyes of the jury and the judge. Early sustained objection will give the jury a poor impression of you.
10. DON’T Ignore Body Language. They jury will be giving many cues by the way they behave, move, dress and listen. Pay great attention to it.