Dr. Noelle Nelson

Pressuring Potential Jurors in Voir Dire Can Backfire at Trial

Time after time, what I discover in jury debriefings is that jurors don’t like being “interrogated” during voir dire. They don’t mind being questioned, but they heartily dislike attorney attempts to force answers out of them and especially resent being pressured into a “yes” or “no” response.

Now this wouldn’t be so critical if it weren’t for the fact that people who feel pressured into a position, retaliate by disliking the person who pressured them. Cornered animals bite. So do jurors.

As tempting as it is to finally get that unqualified “yes” or “no” from a juror, be aware of the consequences. A juror who doesn’t like you will be far less susceptible to your arguments, and may very well damn you during deliberations. Not only that but the unqualified “yes” or “no” is often the juror simply trying to wriggle free from your unwanted persistence.

You may receive a sufficiently truthful and more accurate response by framing your question differently such that it doesn’t antagonize your juror unnecessarily: “Is it more likely that you would . . .” People respond well to choice, as well as to the word “would,” which is experienced as non-invasive.

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