Voir dire is the process by which our legal system chooses jurors for a criminal case. The basis of this selection rests in its actual meaning. In Latin, voir dire means “to speak the truth.”
Simplified, the process works by having judges and lawyers ask questions to potential jurors. Essentially, they’re trying to determine who is capable and competent enough to sit on the jury in a particular case.
Unfortunately, the voir dire process isn’t flawless. People are able to lie or appear a certain way on the surface that doesn’t accurately reflect their personality or opinions.
That’s why it’s so important to bring a behavioral expert into the voir dire process.
Common Voir Dire Questions
When a judge interviews potential jurors, they’re usually more interested in logistical questions. Lawyers on both sides of a case, however, will tend to ask more personal questions that could sway a trial one way or another.
While lawyers can’t get too personal, they can ask a person about their background and biases they might have. They also might ask if they know anything about the particular case at hand.
Things like actual and implied bias are common challenges when a lawyer thinks a certain person wouldn’t be a good fit for a jury. Either that person openly admitted thier own bias for or against a certain culture, religion, etc., or they have character traits that would cause someone to think that way.
Why Is a Behavioral Expert Important?
While behavioral experts are most commonly found in clinical environments, there are some that specialize in reading body language and other subtle nuances that can be extremely beneficial to the voir dire selection process, too. Not every clinician or behavioral expert is trained or experienced in these situations; it is essentially a sub-class specialty of the greater field. Within the legal system they are commonly referred to as Jury Consultants or Voir Dire Consultants.
These behavioral experts are more aware of the mechanics of human behaviors and motivations and trained in how to detect them. They know what to look for to see what people are really thinking or feeling. They have superior communication and listening skills, which can really help when it comes to selecting the right jurors for a particular trial. Detailed focus on language, delivery, posturing, pitch, mannerisms, eye movement and minute facial responses called micro-expressions that we’ll look at a bit more later in this article.
Specialists in this arena can help increase attention to things that an attorney or judge might not typically notice. That’s because their focus is typically on the how the respondent answers the question and not only the questions themselves, among other things.
They’ll also be able to pay attention to the other potential jurors when one is being questioned in the voir dire selection process. If someone feels like they’re not being observed closely, they’re more likely to let their natural reactions come through. A behavioral specialist can pick up on these reactions easily and report them back.
To sum up, a behavioral expert can fill in many gaps. They will let an attorney know what an individual might have really been saying or thinking when answering a particular question. And they can help to shape some of the questions before the selection process as well as indicate during the voir dire process when someone is responding to a question in a way of concern or interest.
Micro-Expressions and Jury Selection
Paul Eckman made the term “micro-expressions” popular, but it stands the test of time because it works. The most subtle movements or changes in facial expressions can end up meaning a lot. If an attorney, judge, or someone else in the legal system isn’t able to pick up on them, it could greatly impact the ultimate verdict.
Voir dire selection is a great way to choose the best possible jurors for a case. But, having the right behavioral expert on board will fine tune the process and make it even better.
Please contact me for more information about the voir dire selection. Or, visit here to learn more about the ways I can help.