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Where do voir dire questions come from?

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October 22, 2013 // Law

question markBy Amy Singer, Ph.D., Diana Greninger and Kemberlee Bonnet

In last week’s article (More can be Revealed: The Benefit of Follow-up Questions in Voir Dire. October 15, 2013), we described sample follow up questions to be used in voir dire and their benefits.  This week, we’d like to share some of the ways to come up with those case specific questions.

It’s been long known that focus groups can be beneficial for trial preparation, especially when there is a lot at stake. For one, it allows the attorney to practice talking about their case in front of mock jurors. It also allows a trial consultant to provide additional input and offer case strategy suggestions, which includes voir dire questions. Focus group research allows us to uncover problem areas of a case that may otherwise go unexplored. Using new Wizpor® methodology, we are able to double the quantity and quality of responses by having a simultaneous anonymous audience participate in the discussion.

 

Wizpor® and Anonymity

Wizpor® provides mock jurors with the anonymity needed for them to feel a sense of freedom to express their honest thoughts and feelings instantaneously without any social or political restraint.  This allows us to better investigate important psychological constructs, such as implicit attitudes. Wizpor® participant’s attitudes toward a specific aspect of the case become exceedingly evident because the participants do not fret much about social desirability and as a result they respond more honestly than live jurors.

For example, in a criminal case involving a black defendant, a white juror would almost never express their true thoughts about black crime rate while sitting in a room with arbitrators and fellow jurors (some who may be black).  However, Wizpor® participants are able to submit anonymous comments, from the comfort of their home, and are much more likely to make a statement such as, “I believe blacks commit more crimes.” Such a comment can spark a discussion more similar to one that would occur in a real jury room, where jurors feel the need to express such thoughts as they realize it impacts an individual’s right to freedom.  In addition, it alerts us to investigate implicit bias toward black individuals and crime during voir dire.

 

Wizpor® and Follow Up

Through Wizpor® data, we extract even more information to develop the appropriate follow up questions and how to specifically word the questions. Some topics are more sensitive than others and those follow up questions need to be worded accordingly. After one identifies the problem areas (as a result of pretrial/mediation research), one creates voir dire questions.

Since voir dire is a deselection process, you must have the intel to find out how folks “process” the land mines in your case. Once you voir dire on the obstacles to a positive verdict, you have the power to make “better” deselection decisions.

In addition, many cases require the attorney to “dig” for more information from potential jurors. This is done by follow up questions such as asking their thoughts or feelings toward specific aspects of, for example, crime rates. Then follow up further by asking them to explain why they do or do not feel or think that way or asking them what they mean by a given statement. Finally, following up with “how many of you agree” or “how many disagree” allows you to identify those who agree with you vs. the opposition.

 

Conclusion

Wizpor® has proven to be a successful tool to reveal case-specific problems, which is the key to better quality of voir dire questions craftsmanship. A sense of anonymity coupled with the sense of freedom of expression allow for instantaneous communication. This open and honest expression will give you the power to create the best quality voir dire questions and follow up questions specific to your case!

 

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