Connecticut Law Tribune

Forensic psychologists recommend structuring the questions in order to elicit the maximum amount of information from jurors. It will be good to ask open-ended questions that begin with phrases like, “Can you tell me a little about…? ” or “What have your experiences been with…? ” In general, questions that begin with “what” (“What did you study in college? “) elicit basic facts and generalities from jurors. Questions that begin with “why” (“Why did you study psychology? “) elicit explanations; and “how” questions elicit jurors’ feelings.

Generally, you will obtain the most valuable answers with “how” and “why” questions. (Scheffey 1999) The order in which the questions are asked is important. Most people maintain a low profile in a group. They are nervous and uncomfortable. The jurors are given an opportunity to relax if the interview is started with easy, basic questions, such as, “What’s your occupation? ” or “Where do you work? ” After braking the ice, it’s better to move into questions, which ask about feelings. You are more likely to obtain expansive, meaningful answers if a juror is relaxed.

When drafting the question is finished, they have others review them. Better yet, have someone else read the questions out loud so that you and the reviewers can all hear them. Many lawyers have inadvertently embarrassed an otherwise good juror with a well-intentioned, but poorly phrased question. “Did you ever get to college? ” may embarrass the potential juror; “What’s your educational background? ” probably won’t. Much of the research on juror decision making is concerned with whether jurors are swayed by irrelevant-or extralegal-issues in their judgments of defendants.

Such studies examine whether jurors’ attitudes and victims’ and defendants’ characteristics have a measurable impact on these decisions. Yet, in the typical study, evidential issues are either poorly measured or ignored; hence the effects of extralegal issues may be exaggerated. Moreover, jury simulations are often chosen to study these questions despite critics’ concerns about the generalizability of the results. The present study uses data gathered from actual jurors to assess whether the emphasis on juror competence is justified.

The results indicate that these jurors’ decisions are dominated by evidential issues, particularly evidence concerning the use of force and physical evidence. Jurors were considerably less responsive to characteristics of victims and defendants. (Bernstein 1995)

References

Scheffey, Thomas. (1999, April). Connecticut Outlaws Religion-Based Juror Challenges. Connecticut Law Tribune, 2, 13-18. Bernstein, Constance. (1995). Voir Dire: Getting Jurors to Talk. Retrieved February 8, 2007, from http://expertpages. com/news/voir_dire_getting_jurors_to_talk. htm