Picking a jury is the most important part of a trial.
It’s called voir dire – which is French for “Let’s see what they say.” You are choosing the people who will decide the lawsuit – but just as important, you are making a first impression about yourself and your client.
There are formal rules. We won’t talk about them. They’re not as important as the common sense of it.
First, you’ve got to establish a connection. Let them know you’re not a complete geek. If you try, you can find some connection with some of them – same church, same neighborhood, they work in the same building where your wife used to work.
You can’t do this with all of them, but you can with some. Let them see your sense of humor – gently – and also let them know how important the case is to your client.
Explain to them that this is your client’s only chance at justice.
If the judge lets you, “show” them around the courtroom. Tell them what the court reporter does, what the bailiff does, introduce your client, the person he’s suing, the other lawyer.
Tell them what the case is about – as much as the judge will let you. (He won’t let you go into much detail, because some lawyers will go on forever.)
Make sure they understand that – unlike a criminal prosecutor – you don’t have to prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt, that you only have to prove your case by “the greater weight of the evidence.” (One juror told me that he thought this was a bad thing. I asked the judge to excuse him.)
Make them promise not to be influenced by feelings of sympathy for the defendant. But tell them your client does not want anyone to feel sorry for her or him – you just want justice.
Tell them this is your client’s chance for justice.
Concentrate more on learning their feelings than on what they say. No one will admit that he is prejudiced; but if you read between the lines, or listen to the tone of their voice, you might get a better idea of what they think of you and your client.
This is the most important thing – tell them what the worst part of your case is and what the best part of the other lawyer’s case is. Then ask if they can still be fair knowing this.
This is really tough. For one thing, you can’t always be sure what the other lawyer knows, or what the judge will let either of you talk about. For another, most people don’t like to be that honest about there shortcomings.
But if you don’t do it, they’ll be surprised when they learn the truth, and they won’t trust you after that.
And nothing’s worse than that. The best fact you have is not as good as the jury knowing you are honest.
I have been a lawyer over 30 years. I’ve been listening to jurors just as long. If you’ve been injured in an accident, talk with an experienced Cincinnati Injury Lawyer about the case. Call me, William Strubbe, at 513-621-4775.
Because all situations are different, and because there may be other facts pertaining to your case that I don’t know about, you should not rely on this answer for legal advice. I am not your attorney, and no lawyer client relationship has been formed.