Ten Reasons to Use Supplemental Jury Questionnaires

I want to welcome Law Tips participant, Inese A. Neiders, Ph.D, J.D., jury consultant from Columbus, Ohio. She assists lawyers in trial preparation, jury selection and trial presentation. It’s a pleasure to be sharing Dr. Neiders expertise with our readers.

How do you accurately and fairly test potential jurors’ qualifications? Do you believe that some prospective jurors are intimidated or influenced by another juror’s oral answers? Can you recall each answer you hear from each person interviewed? Dr. Neiders brings you her seasoned opinions on these and other issues encountered in the jury selection process.  Here’s her food-for-thought:

Ten Reasons to Use Supplemental Jury Questionnaires

The cornerstone of a good jury trial is the selection of a jury that is, to the greatest extent possible, free of bias. It is the duty of Court and counsel to select such a jury and to remove those potential jurors who will not be able to follow the court’s instructions and evaluate the evidence fairly.

In testing the qualifications of potential jurors to serve free of bias and prejudice, the voir dire of a prospective jury can be greatly enhanced by the use of a good jury questionnaire. Jury questionnaires are now widely accepted by the courts as a tool of modern science practice that can be cost effective and time saving in jury selection.

The important reasons for the use of a supplemental jury questionnaire:

  1. Assure Fairness for All: Both sides of the case and the Court have input in drafting the questionnaire. Everyone has equal access to the information generated by the instrument.
  1. Ask Better Questions: The questionnaire allows for a larger number and greater variety of questions of each juror. The variety of types of questions that can be drafted by the jury consultant and counsel (open ended, multiple choice, or forced choice) and the use of reliable “lie scales” can produce a better understanding of the jury than traditional oral examination.
  1. Save Time: Having each juror answer each question in writing in advance of oral examination avoids repetitious questions to the panel. Help from the jury consultant provides a chance to study and analyze responses and conserves attorney time for more strategic work.
  1. Assure Better Recall: Even attorneys with great memories tend to lose recall of juror responses to oral questions over a period oftime. This can be particularly troublesome in a case involving a lengthy jury selection process. Being able to turn directly to the jurors’ written response aids recall and analysis.
  1. Save Money: Among the tools available to help in jury selection, questionnaires are less expensive than mock juries or opinion surveys. The lower cost makes this valuable tool more widely available.
  1. Learn More about the Literacy Level of Jurors: Written answers of potential jurors can reveal a great deal about the ability of the jury to understand the case. This is especially critical in cases dealing with difficult legal issues, scientific evidence, or complex testimony, particularly from expert witnesses.
  1. Learn about All of the Jurors: Uniform questions to the entire jury panel assure that all the jury candidates, not just those in the box, answer all of the questions. The uniformity of questions also guarantees that each juror is presented each question in the same manner. Important issues are less likely to be overlooked for jurors who may be questioned late in the proceedings.
  1. Protect Jurors from Contamination by Other Juror Answers: The requirement of answering privately, in writing, insulates the panel members from being influenced by the way lawyers phrase questions or by the answers given by other, more articulate jurors. They will be unable to learn from others the kinds of answers that can assure selection to, or excuse from the panel.
  1. Get Better Answers from Jurors: The less-pressured atmosphere in which the questionnaire is administered makes it more likely that answers will be truthful and thoughtful. They are more likely to be the juror’s own response rather than no response or a response copied from others. The privacy afforded eliminates the tendency to try to please the judge or lawyer asking an oral question.
  2. Be Better Prepared: Even if the Court rejects the use of your questionnaire, or if circumstances change and you decide not to use it, the work in preparing is not wasted. The question development and pretesting with the jury consultant will assure that you are going to be prepared for court.

Jury questionnaires are just one tool to use to measure attitudes in jury selection. In high profile cases, those with high potential penalties, when bias and prejudice are particular concerns, a unique case or venue, the use of jury questionnaires prepared with the help of competent consultants is indispensable.

I appreciate Dr. Neiders contribution to Law Tips. Hopefully her review provided you with ideas to contemplate as you prepare for your next jury selection. ICLEF litigation seminars that can assist you further are available statewide as Video Replay Seminars or from your home or office as On Demand Seminars. Take a look at:  “Special Issues in Automobile Accident Cases,” “Trying the Traumatic Brain Injury Case,” and “Recent Developments in DUI Defense.”

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About our Law Tips faculty participants:
Inese A. Neiders, Ph.D., J.D. is a jury consultant who assists lawyers in trial preparation, jury selection and trial presentation. She earned her Ph.D. in sociology from The Ohio State University and her J.D. is from Case Western Reserve. She has assisted lawyers in jury selection throughout the country. Learn more about her at www.juryselectionexpertise.com.

About our Law Tips blogger:
Nancy Hurley has long-standing connections with Indiana lawyers. She was formerly a member of the ISBA and IBF staffs for over 30 years. Nancy’s latest lifestyle venture is with ICLEF. We are utilizing her exceptional writing and interviewing skills while exploring how her Indiana-lawyer background fits with ICLEF’s needs. When she isn’t ferreting out new topics for Law Tips, her work can be found in our Speaker Spotlight blogs, postings on the ICLEF Facebook and Twitter pages, and other places her legal experience lends itself.

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ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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