Friday, March 30, 2012

The Power of Privacy: Juror Questionnaires

You would think that potential jurors, knowing full well that their written juror questionnaires will be scrutinized by the lawyers on both sides, if not also by trial consultants and other professionals, would respond to written queries the same as they do to oral voir dire. Certainly the same as jurors would respond to Your Honor at sidebar or in chambers.

Fascinating research* has recently revealed something I long suspected (and relied on) from years of jury selection experience: people feel that what is between themselves and a sheet of paper is private. Potential jurors are most honest with their true thoughts and feelings in response to jury questionnaires, to a surprising degree.

Jurors in the study failed to answer truthfully to 67% of voir dire questions, to 33% of attorney sidebar questions, to fully 50% of judge sidebar questions, and even to 20% of questions asked in chambers.
What does this mean to you? Simple. Any time it is possible to use a jury questionnaire, use it! Jury questionnaires do not need to be arduous, overwrought documents. Streamlined and written for maximum effectiveness, juror questionnaires will give you the most truthful look at how your potential jurors think and feel.
Jury questionnaires can make all the difference to winning your case.

* Flores, D.M. (2011). Methods of expanded voir dire and written questionnaires: Experimental results on juror self-disclosure and implications for trial practice. Court Call, Summer, 2011, pp. 1-6.