Jury selection is one of the most important phases of a trial. Jurors’ experiences and perspectives have a tremendous impact on how they view the case and render a verdict. Despite this importance, however, the process of jury selection happens remarkably quickly, often with very limited information about who the potential jurors are or how they think.
Mind Matters understands the way people in the Pacific Northwest think; and of course, not all of us think alike.
We adjust our strategy based on the trial’s venue. People in Seattle think differently than those in Everett, Tacoma, Portland or Spokane. Those subtle differences could affect the way you strategize and present your case.
Mind Matters consultants help trial teams with two components of jury selection strategy: (1) learning about the potential jurors and (2) identifying which ones to strike.
Across the world of litigation, there are many theories on how attorneys should question potential jurors during voir dire. Ultimately, litigators have one opportunity to learn about the group of people who will determine the fate of their case – that time must be used wisely.
We will craft case-specific voir dire questions to elicit the experiences, attitudes and biases most likely to impact the way jurors will understand your case, while not making your best potential jurors easy targets for your opponent to strike.
The jury selection process creates a lot of “noise” that can distract you from factors that would impact how potential jurors will make decisions. For example, it can be interesting to know what bumper stickers one has on their cars or what they think about the infamous McDonald’s coffee case, but it is highly doubtful either of those things will make a difference in how jurors will perceive and decide your case. Mind Matters knows how to distinguish between the extraneous noise and the factors that will truly make a difference in how jurors think.
Many people are uncomfortable sharing personal details or prejudices in open court, so they might be tempted to keep quiet. SJQs allow jurors to discreetly disclose personal information that could impact their view of the case at issue. Potential jurors complete SJQs in private before verbal questioning begins; this is why they are essential when cases involve sensitive information such as personal health history, substance abuse, domestic violence, childhood abuse, assault, harassment, etc.
Each SJQ is customized to address key issues in the case relevant for jury selection. Our user-friendly, 1 – 2 page SJQ form is often accepted by judges across the Pacific Northwest; they can make voir dire much more efficient and effective.
Whether the judge allowed 30 minutes for voir dire or three days, the moment of actually picking the jury happens quickly and can be dramatically impacted by a wrong split-second decision.
In order to make a good decision about which jurors to strike, one must keep track of not only everything said during voir dire but also jurors’ dominant personality traits, positioning within the venire, and even the opposition’s strategy. All of this is difficult for even the most skilled litigator when they have other, equally important, tasks to focus on such as building rapport with the jurors, arguing motions in limine, preparing for opening statements and getting ready for the first witness.
When a Mind Matters consultant is by your side during jury selection, you can focus on your job as a litigator while we take care of everything else.
We will share our advice on which jurors to pursue for cause challenges, what follow-up questions to ask, and who to strike and when.
Our chief jury selection specialist, Dr. George Hunter, has developed an efficient method for keeping track of juror information, lineup position in the venire, and status. Dr. Hunter has a keen ability to quickly evaluate key personality traits of potential jurors and determine the risk they would pose to the case. He advises on the relevant lines of questioning to elicit the key words to secure a cause challenge.
“I have worked extensively with Andrea and George on numerous cases. Their contributions have been tremendous in all aspects of litigation, especially trial witness preparation, focus groups and jury selection. Perhaps most importantly, I have gained a great deal of insight regarding how juries analyze and decide cases as a result of post-trial jury debriefing. The comprehensive services George and Andrea provide throughout the life of a case add a great deal to the quality of our representation of clients.”JEFFREY R. STREETPartner Hodgkinson Street, LLC Portland, OR