Jury selection process
Personal injury cases are often resolved without going to trial but for various reasons, insurance companies these days are holding back on settling out of court and it is becoming more and more common for a case to be brought before a judge and jury. For this reason, it is important for everyone to understand the steps of the jury selection process.
The jury selection process is called “voir dire.” This is when all potential jurors have an opportunity to first get instructions from the judge. A seating chart is given to both attorneys with names of all potential jurors. The potential jurors are then asked to enter the courtroom, sit in their designated places, introduce themselves and tell a bit about their lives. The jurors are also given some basic general information about the case, which will be presented by the judge and both attorneys. Next, the attorneys from both sides are offered an opportunity to question any or all potential jurors regarding their feelings, life experiences and opinions. The potential jurors are also afforded an opportunity to mention if there is anything that is going on in their lives, which would prevent them from being impartial when reviewing this case or if there is a schedule conflict or anything else going on in their lives that would be a fair reason to be excused from jury duty.
After this stage is complete, there is a recess where attorneys take the time to make notes and contemplate who they would ideally want on the jury, who they absolutely would not want on the jury, etc. The attorneys and other courtroom attendees return to the courtroom before the judge. Working with the chart that was given at the beginning of the day and following the sequential order as instructed by the judge (beginning with the first row), the attorneys take turns either striking a person from jury duty or passing their turn to the other attorney, until the jurors have been selected. Each attorney is allotted a set number of strikes and passes, as advised by the court.
Here are some key points pertaining to the jury selection process:
Studies by jury psychologists show that potential jurors enter a courtroom with preconceived opinions affecting how they will view a case. These are opinions they have formed as a result of life experiences and things opinions arising from their life experiences will most likely not change no matter how excellent your legal arguments may be. For this exact reason, a primary goal in jury selection should be to carefully screen the panel to determine which potential jurors carry any type of prejudice against your case and/or your client. Keeping this in mind, will help you in eliminating any potentially problematic jurors.
Educate the potential jury on the main issues of the case. This will allow you to determine if a juror is well suited to decide the case before him or her. For example, if one juror has sued for injuries related to a car accident, that person may be more sympathetic to what your client has gone through as the injured victim in an auto accident. Explaining any weaknesses in your case to the jury is a good way to show your potential jurors that you will be honest with them.
Establish rapport with the jury. This will be the only time where the jury will be able to interact and speak with you.