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Simple Jury Persuasion: It feels good to get along

Wednesday, October 21, 2009
posted by Rita Handrich

noddingbulldogsThere’s a really good reason for obtaining verbal and/or non-verbal agreement from your panel during voir dire. Not only does it begin the process of building your relationship with potential jurors, it is also a means of predisposing them to continue to be in agreement with you as time goes on through the trial.

Here’s how it works: The principle itself is one of “commitment and consistency” (Mills 2000). You can be more persuasive by obtaining what you might think of as ‘small beginning commitments’. This might be around issues such as traffic that morning, finding parking by the courthouse, or even a comment on the weather. You establish yourself as comfortable with them, as caring about their comfort, and you make good eye contact with them.

As you move through your voir dire, you are asking for opinions, asking about agreement from the panel on various issues, and letting them know you want them to feel comfortable with the burden they take on as jurors in a pending trial. Research on persuasion tells us that people like to see themselves as behaving consistently. When you establish a pattern of agreement early on in voir dire, those who will eventually become jurors are more likely to continue to agree with you as long as you are reasonable in your requests/presentation of evidence. (This is why skilled negotiators begin with the ground rules first—to establish that all-important pattern of agreement.)

Agreement in small things can lead to agreement in larger things.

Mills, H. (2000). Artful Persuasion: How to command attention, change minds, and influence people, AMACOM.

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