We're in a jury selection mood lately, so here are Rumpole's "Rules Of Voir Dire" (c) 2017 Justice Building Blog.
10. This is for ASAs. Never ask jurors if they would like DNA, Video, fingerprints, etc, when you don't have that in your case. You ask them that, they think for a second and say "sure, that would be great" and now you have to explain that you don't have that evidence. You look like fools doing this.
9. Don't go into reasonable doubt. The jury instruction is clear. As a defense attorney it can only hurt you.
8. If you do go into reasonable doubt, ask the judge to read the instruction. Then ask them what they think about it. Don't ask them if they can follow the law.
7. Spend time on your client not testifying. Even if she is going to testify. The number one way to expose a state oriented juror is to identify a juror who wants to shift the burden of proof and have the defense prove through the defendant's testimony that they are innocent.
6. NEVER EVER EVER tell the jury in voir dire your client will testify. It creates two big problems. First, if the state's case falls apart but the judge doesn't JOA it, you're stuck with your promise. Second, it tells the prosecutor - "hey- get a legal pad and for the rest of the trial start thinking of every question on cross you want to ask my client." Bad bad move.
5. Never admit to anything in voir dire. The thought that it buys you credibility is crap. It just reinforces in the jurors' minds that the reason why your client is sitting next to you is because she did something.
4. Personalize your client non-verbally. Show physical contact with them in front of the jury. Laugh with them at the appropriate moment. Put your arm around them and explain the process as the panel is filing in. The attentive jurors will see that and some of them will reason that this is a new experience for your client as well.
3. You can't try your case in voir dire so stop trying. It's annoying. It doesn't really work and to the extent you get jurors wholeheartedly agreeing with you, you're just alerting the other side on who they should strike.
2. Never ask a juror if they can follow the law. Either a bad juror says yes and you've lost a challenge, or a good juror says no, and you've lost a juror. Ask them to explain what they mean when they express reservations with a legal concept.
1. Never ever interrupt a juror. They can't poison a panel. But they will give you a good insight into what they are thinking, even if they are thinking your client is the worst worm ever to wiggle into a courtroom. Ask them why they think that way. It will identify your problems.
Bonus tip: always tender first time around. The other side won't be able to resist using a strike. Now you're ahead of the game. Do it twice. Do it thrice. You'll see. It puts them back on their heels and you start having the ability to control the panel.
It sounds dangerous. We've been doing this since around the time James Earl Carter was living at 1600 Pennsylvania avenue (with a break after he lost). It works.
From Occupied America, where the Attorney General of the United States is afraid to ride the NYC subways, but senator Schumer's teenage daughters ride them at 4 am, Fight the Power!
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