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Mastering Voir Dire.

Who Cares how you pronounce it - it is still recruiting the best jurors for you. My thoughts on trial craft.

There are hundreds of books written, by what I assume are great trial attorneys, on voir dire, but the vast majority do not detail exactly what you must do.  So here is my script on what you are really suppose to do.  

Lawyers for what ever reason seem to make things complicated.  Maybe it is the arrogance or prestige.  Maybe we have to give reason to the nightmare of being vetted by a state bar.  Who knows.  But, to be good at something - to truly master it; you must see it for its most simple form.  What are you suppose to do during jury selection?  Easy, put people on your jury that will vote for your side.  It is no different that stacking your dodge ball team during gym class.

People want to say or write about voir dire as a process where you remove the bad people from the jury.  That may be a good place to start, like novice level, but that is not what you are there to do.  I once had a client who I was meeting with at the jail, lets call him Johnny, and I was explaining jury selection, which was set for the next day.  Johnny just smiled and looked up at me and said "Mr. Crawford I got jury selection handled."  I laughed and said, "Johnny what do you mean, are you planning on picking the jury?"  He said, "nah but I got seven of my cousins coming down tomorrow and you can just pick them."  Now, if we had seven of the client's cousins in the panel, how could we lose?  The mindset you need to be in is building your tribe.

Here is the how-to.  

Rule number one: the jury must like you to vote for your client or your case. A bad lawyer can lose a trial a lot faster than any piece of evidence.  Quite frankly, lawyers lose more trials then they think they won.  You have to smile.  Feel comfortable around the jury and the courtroom.  You have to like the jury.  These are your people, your team.  When you are questioning them about the unique themes or issues of your case, tell some jokes.  Be humble about your position in the process.  You can come up with so much material.  In injury cases, I like to talk to the panel about doctors and how they look to us.  I basically ask if anyone is going to upset if the doctors that are called as witnesses dont look or talk like Matthew Mcconaughey.  Then I will usually ask one of the female jurors how nice that would be if it was actually true that every doctor looked and spoke like Mcconaughey.  Hopefully to get a laugh.  Think of ways to interject humor and humanity into your standard questions and ideas.  If you can do this well, you will recognize great responses from some on the panel; head nodding, big smiles, laughter - those people are your recruits.

Rule two: hopefully, at the same time you are building your team, you are finding people who are opposed to your or your case.  This is not that hard.  In criminal cases, it is the people that believe your client must have done something to get there.  Just ask them if they believe your client is innocent.  If they waiver or say "innocence until proven guilty" they are out of the tribe.  In injury cases it is the people that believe that no amount of money can equal an injury or that the money awarded should be limited in some fashion.  Easy just ask them, do they think that because Ms. Jones, who is injured, is asking for money to compensate that injury is being greedy.  What they will normally say is no if she is in fact really hurt.  Those are the people to watch out for.  There are a thousand follow up questions you can ask that person from there, but the idea is they dont have to be fully convinced to vote for Ms. Jones.

From all my experience what I see is different levels of control and comfort when lawyers pick a jury.

You have the novice who are just trying to get their questions out and find people who are oppose to them.

You have the intermediates who have their questions and routine somewhat ironed-out, but who are only trying to convey their ideas and find the bad people.  

Then you have the masters, these are the ones who view selection as building or crafting their tribe.  They put so many people into their tribe that opposing counsel has to spend their time and challenges canceling these people out.  That is where you want to go, you want to leave jury selection believing that not only do you have a good panel, but that you have your panel.  

Be prepared, be honest, and be human.

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