Picking a Jury for a Personal Injury Case
SELECTING THE JURY
An important stage in the course of a jury trial takes place at the very outset of the proceedings, namely, the voir dire (generally pronounced vwa dear) of the jury. Voir dire consists of questions the attorneys ask the potential jurors in order to determine which of them will actually sit on the jury panel. There is a sample set of voir dire questions in Appendix A. (see form 11 p.248.) Voir dire procedure varies from judge to judge. Sometimes the judge asks all the questions with input from the attorneys, other times the attorneys do the questioning.
You have a very important role to play during voir dire. You can provide your lawyer with your reaction to the various potential jurors. If your gut tells you that a certain individual would be unsympathetic to you and your case, you need to let your lawyer know that. Even a sideways glance by a potential juror can tip you off to some unstated hostility he or she may have for you. Your lawyer will greatly appreciate this information.
You should conduct yourself during voir dire, and throughout the trial, in a respectful and appropriate manner. The jury will begin appraising you and your credibility from the moment it first files into the courtroom at the beginning of voir dire. If your jury feels that you are judging them, they may feel offended. You should therefore strain to avoid this appearance. You should express your feelings about the jury to your attorney in as private a way as possible. Be sure to have a pen and note pad handy to make notes during voir dire. You can use these notes to help you later recall your reactions to the various jurors. You can also scribble off messages to your lawyer during voir dire to advise him or her of your opinion concerning individual jurors. Written messages are a better way to communicate with your lawyer than a tap on the shoulder or a whisper.