Monday, March 2, 2015

Watch Those Jurors: Body Language Trumps the Spoken Word

The courtroom setting is unfamiliar to most prospective jurors, and sitting with a group of strangers is not necessarily within most people's comfort zone, much less being grilled by counsel during voir dire. In addition to which potential jurors may respond differently depending if they want to be off or on a particular jury. Therefore, their responses may not entirely reflect that person's "truth."

However, an individual's body language will virtually always be consistent with the person's "truth," despite what is spoken. To assess the veracity of any given prospective juror's verbal response, pay close attention to their body language, in particular body language that conflicts with oral responses.

Watch each prospective juror's body language as they respond to questions, whether the
questions come from you, opposing counsel or the judge. For example, if prospective jurors say, "Yes, I can be fair" but their head is going side to side, signaling "No," believe their body language. Similarly, if potential jurors say, "No, I would not be prejudiced against . . . " but their head is bobbing up and down, signaling "Yes," believe their body language which is clearly saying "Yes, I would be prejudiced."

If prospective jurors say they would give damages in a certain type of case, but their arms are crossed in front of their chest, either they won't give damages, or they would award very little.

If prospective jurors say, "Yes, I can keep an open mind" but they squirm in their seat, something about keeping an open mind is making them anxious. Continue to observe the behavior when asking the next questions. See if the squirming continues. If so, this may indicate  a need to visit the restroom or anxiety about being a juror. If, however, the squirming ceases, the person's anxiety was only relevant to that particular question and can be read in that context.

Body language always trumps the spoken word!

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