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Voir Dire Tips you wouldn’t likely figure out on your own

Monday, August 30, 2010
posted by Rita Handrich

We’re always on the lookout for research findings that can give us an edge when it comes to jury selection. These sorts of findings are often counter-intuitive and not the sort of thing you would figure out on your own. As a public service (and because it’s sort of fun) we present the latest of our research scavenging.

Juror empathy: There are times when you want jurors who are high in empathy. Say, for example, you have a plaintiff horribly injured or a defendant who will suffer irrevocable harm if a verdict is awarded for the plaintiff. Rather than inquiring specifically about empathy—just listen. People who talk in a more melodic (or “sing-song”) voice or cadence are higher in empathy.  Sometimes you want them. Sometimes you don’t. Proceed accordingly.

Juror bias against Arabs: This is a tricky one. If your client is Arabic or Muslim, you have an uphill battle. No surprise there.  A recent article in the APA Monitor finds that there seems to be a tendency for religious bias to be involved in trials involving Arab defendants but there is little to no controlled research to examine anti-Muslim biases. What we would say here is this: be very careful. Talk to jurors about implicit bias and how associations made by opposing counsel with terrorist acts can bias them against your client without their conscious awareness. Talk to them about how to minimize this bias within themselves.

There is more we’ve seen lately. This is a sampling to get you started thinking about the novel applications of research findings you see reported in the mass media on a daily basis. What does it potentially mean for voir dire?

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