Publication Title

De Novo

Document Type



“Jury selection” is a misnomer because lawyers don’t actually get to “select” ideal jurors; they get a limited opportunity to “deselect” the worst prospective jurors. The goal of voir dire is to identify these jurors by uncovering their attitudes, beliefs, opinions, preconceptions, biases, and prejudices. To accomplish this, a lawyer has a difficult task: she must foster an honest, intimate conversation among strangers in a very public, formal environment.

Even honest jurors may give misleading answers during voir dire due to nervousness, inattention, faulty memory, or misunderstanding. The formal courtroom atmosphere can have a chilling effect at odds with the judge’s instructions and the oath to be honest and forthcoming. Jurors may resolve this conflict by interpreting questions narrowly and literally, and responding with short, technically truthful answers. The key to getting jurors to open up is to think about voir dire as an intimate conversation. The goal is to get the jurors talking, and once they start, to keep them talking.



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