Reveal the hidden juror biases that can crater your case
It is the first day of trial, and you are ready. You know the law; you know the facts of your case; you know your witnesses. The jurors are the only unknown, and voir dire is your only chance to get to know them. What questions should you ask? What questions should you not ask? What if your questions are met with stone-faced silence? What if a biased juror slips past you?
Pattern Voir Dire Questions will help you ask the right questions, in a way that encourages jurors to speak their minds, so that you can make informed decisions about exercising your peremptory strikes. Pattern Voir Dire Questions gives you a model voir dire for 26 types of cases, and multiple fact scenarios. Each voir dire begins with questions about the jurors’ background and case-related experiences, and builds toward more sensitive questions about jurors’ attitudes toward your client and the key issues in your case. Here is a sampling of how it works:
Ask the main questions (in bold-faced type) to introduce a topic; ask specific follow-up questions to get jurors talking.
Some people say there has been an increase in the number of cases that really do not belong in court. Other people say that it only looks that way because of the way the situation is presented in the news. What do you think?
- Do you think there are too many, too few or about the right number of lawsuits?
- What is a “frivolous lawsuit”?
- How can you determine what is a “real” case and what is a “frivolous” case?
- Do you think some people file “frivolous lawsuits?” Why or why not?
- Do you think some people [companies, doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies] put up “frivolous defenses” when they are sued? Why do you feel that way?
- Do you understand we all have the right to let a jury decide the merit of a case like this one? Do you agree with that concept? Why [not]?
Do you agree or disagree with this statement: People today are too ready to blame others and not take responsibility for their actions.
- Why do you feel that way?
- Can you give me an example?
Do you think there are cases where large amounts of money damages are justified?
- Why/why not?
- In what types of cases might a large amount of money damages be justified?
Do you think there are cases where large amounts of money damages are not justified?
- Why/why not?
- What types of cases?
- Do you believe the size of jury awards affects insurance premiums?
- Do you believe that the size of jury awards affects community services?
How do you feel about legislative reforms to place caps or limits on the amount of money juries can award?
- Is that a good idea or a bad idea?
- Are there some types of cases that should have verdict limits and others that should not have limits? Which types of cases?
Is there a drug problem in the United States today?
- Why do you believe there is [is not] a drug problem in the U.S. today?
- What is the drug problem?
- How serious is it?
- Who is responsible for this national drug problem?
- Who is responsible for solving the problem?
- What is being done to combat the drug problem in the U.S.?
- Would you do anything differently? How would you handle the national drug problem?
- The United States has an Office of National Drug Control Policy. Should drug use/addiction be a matter of national public health policy? Why [not]?
Is there a drug problem in your neighborhood [community]?
- Why do you believe there is [is not] a drug problem in your neighborhood [community] today?
- Have drugs affected your neighborhood [your community]?
- Is there a crime problem in your neighborhood [community]?
- Do you believe drugs are the root of the crime problem? Why [not]?
- How would you handle the drug problem in your neighborhood [your community]?
Some people feel that drug addiction is a sickness. Other people feel that it shows a lack of discipline. How do you feel?
- Why do you feel that way?
- Can people be rehabilitated? Why or why not?
Domestic violence cases
What does the phrase “domestic violence” mean to you?
- Do harsh words constitute “domestic violence”?
- How about threatening words? Is that “domestic violence”?
- What about emotional abuse or hurtful words? Is that “domestic violence”?
- Does “domestic violence” always leave a visible mark or physical injury?
- Does pushing or shoving constitute “domestic violence”? What about slapping with an open hand?
Do you believe that if a child sees violence in his home growing up, he is more likely to be violent in his own home as an adult?
- Why do you think that?
- Does that childhood experience explain the adult behavior?
- Does it excuse the adult behavior?
What are your general thoughts and feelings about women who stay in abusive [violent] relationships?
- Why might a woman continue to live with [remain in a relationship with/have contact with] a man who is physically abusive [violent] with her?
- Why might it be difficult for a woman to leave?
- Some people think that a woman who is beaten more than once has only herself to blame. What do you think? Why do you say that?
- Some people think that if a man becomes physically abusive [violent] with a woman, she probably deserved it. What do you think?
- Some people believe a man would never hit a woman unless she provoked it. What do you think?
Go beyond demographics. Ask questions that tap into jurors’ attitudes toward your client and the key issues in your case.
Attitudes Toward Contracts
How important are contracts to the conduct of business?
- Some people say that contracts are important commitments. Other people say that what is important is how people work things out. How do you feel?
Do you think the terms of contracts are usually specific and unchangeable or open to interpretation?
- Why do you say that?
- Can you give me an example?
- Some people approach contracts with the attitude “Everything is negotiable.” Do you agree or disagree?
Do you make a practice of reading a contract before you sign it?
- Why [not]?
- Do you read every word or just skim it?
Do you believe that contracts usually benefit one party at the expense of another?
Why do people break contracts?
- Are there any good reasons for breaking a contract?
- Can you give me an example or two?
- Are there bad reasons for breaking a contract?
- Can you give me an example or two?
- Is it possible for a contract to cover future changes in circumstances?
How do you feel about oral contracts?
- Are oral contracts as valid as written contracts? Why or why not?
- Do you think oral contracts should be enforceable in the business context?
Some people think that oral business agreements are as binding as written contracts. Other people think that in business it is naïve to rely on an oral agreement. What do you think?
Attitudes Toward the Parties
Do you think police officers play an important role in a community?
- Tell me why you feel that way.
- How do you think the police are doing in terms of dealing with crime – do you think the police do an excellent job, a good job, a fair job or a bad job?
- What are your feelings about police officers as individuals?
- What kind of person becomes a police officer? [Probe: bullies, those seeking to help their fellow man, etc.]
- What kinds of mistakes might a police officer make in performing his duties?
- Should police officers be held to a different standard because they put their lives on the line for the good of the community? Why or why not?
- Should police officers be held to a higher standard or should their conduct be excused (held to a lower standard) because of the nature of the job?
Do police officers treat all people the same?
- Who might be treated differently?
- Do police officers treat people in low-income neighborhoods differently from people in middle- or high-income neighborhoods? Why do you say that?
- Do police officers treat criminal suspects differently in low-income neighborhoods than in middle- or high-income neighborhoods? Why do you say that?
- Do police officers treat people of different races/ethnicities/religions differently? Why do you say that?
What are your general thoughts/feelings about claims of [e.g., excessive force] against a police officer?
- Why do you think someone might bring this type of claim?
- How would you distinguish between “reasonable force” and “excessive force”?
Tips and practical advice from an experienced trial consultant
In addition to the sample questions, Pattern Voir Dire Questions provides you with tips and practical advice based on author Susan Broome’s 20 years’ experience working with trial attorneys. You will learn:
- How to deal with the silent juror;
- How to curb the juror who won’t stop talking;
- How to categorize a prospective juror as a leader, a consensus builder, a follower, or a “hanger”;
- Why “agree or disagree” question are so effective;
- The simplest way to build rapport with jurors at the beginning of voir dire;
- How to broach the subject of religion and why it is important to determine a juror’s religious beliefs in every case;
- The two most important influences on jurors in a personal injury lawsuit;
- How jurors allocate fault in a personal injury suit;
- What you can learn from demographic questions, e.g., how a juror feels about her neighborhood, in a criminal prosecution;
- How to raise a challenge for cause;
- How to rehabilitate a juror challenged for cause;
- Why questions about fairness and impartiality are a waste of time.
REVISION 3 HIGHLIGHTS
With this 2019 Edition of Pattern Voir Dire Questions, author Christina Marinakis, J.D., Psy.D., brings you new and expanded coverage of key voir dire principles; plus new voir dire questions, strategic advice and practice points throughout the book. The highlights include:
NEW TEXT re:
- (More) reasons to minimize questions aimed at preconditioning
- Arguing and defending cause challenges
- Raising and defending against a Batson challenge
- The Reptile Theory, including:
- Foundation of the Reptile Theory
- How it works
- Practical tips for implementing the Reptile Theory in voir dire (with sample questions for plaintiff)
- Practical tips for defending against the Reptile Theory in voir dire (with sample questions for the defendant)
New voir dire questions for a broad range of cases and topics, including:
- Burn injuries and electrocution
- Products liability: drugs and medical device cases
- Cyberbullying, threats, online hate speech
- Attitudes about contracts, generally
- Attitudes toward risk in business dealings/transactions: buyer beware v. seller be fair
- Experience with fraud in contract-related business dealings
- Landlord-tenant disputes
- Real estate disputes involving loss or damage to property
- The appropriate penalty – civil or criminal — for moving violations
An EXPANDED TOPICAL INDEX that includes more than 100 new voir dire questions.
3 NEW PRACTICE POINTS for implementing/defending against Reptile Theory tactics:
- Preface a question with “How many of you agree…” when you are trying to show that a belief is universally accepted; preface the question with “Does anyone think…” when attempting to show that a belief is preposterous and unreasonable.
- [For plaintiff] Be careful not to ask questions that less than half the jury is likely to agree with. Doing so will actually serve to identify your best jurors for the defense to strike. Rather, pay attention to . . . .
- [For defendant] In closing, you should remind jurors that they agreed to be on the lookout for evidence taken out of context. Then, review all the times the plaintiffs’ lawyers did just that. Pointing out all the plaintiffs’ deceptions drives home the point that plaintiffs’ credibility is highly questionable. It also helps if . . . .
ABBREVIATED TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1 Governing Principles
Chapter 2 Common Questions – Civil Cases
Chapter 3 Injury Cases
Chapter 4 Business Litigation
Chapter 5 Professional Malpractice
Chapter 6 Employment Discrimination Litigation
Chapter 7 Civil Rights Cases
Chapter 8 Defamation
Chapter 9 Toxic Torts
Chapter 10 Intentional Torts
Chapter 11 Common Questions – Criminal Cases
Chapter 12 Crimes of Violence
Chapter 13 Sex-Related Crimes
Chapter 14 Property Crimes
Chapter 15 Motor Vehicle Crimes
Chapter 16 White Collar Crimes
Chapter 17 Drug Crimes
Chapter 18 Domestic Violence
Voir Dire Questions – By Topic
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Christina Marinakis, Esq. is a Senior Jury Consultant and Director of Jury Research at Litigation Insights. With over 15 years of research, study, and applied practice in law and psychology, she has assisted trial counsel during jury selection and with daily trial monitoring in venues across the country. Christina draws from her backgrounds in law, psychology, and jury research to draft juror questionnaires, voir dire questions, jury instructions, and verdict forms for her clients. Through her experience conducting focus groups, mock trials, shadow juries, and post-trial interviews, she has analyzed hundreds of jurors, and she regularly assists counsel with developing and implementing trial themes throughout voir dire, opening statements, and witness testimony. Her clients include law firms, individuals, government agencies, small companies, and several Fortune 500 companies.