0 Comments Published on August 7th, 2014 by Christy Montour
- First, an attorney wants to make certain he or she selects the best possible jury panel for his or her client's case by determining which potential jurors should be eliminated for cause.
- Second, jury selection allows an attorney to gather information so he or she can intelligently exercise peremptory challenges. Understanding what potential jurors are truly communicating can be crucial to the outcome of a case.
NONVERBAL CUES INDICATING BIAS DURING JURY SELECTION
- Looks to other attorney or judge for approval when answering your questions
- Staring at you/your client
- Lack of smiling at you/your client
- Lack of eye contact with you/your client
- Frequent eye contact with other attorney/ smiling
- Frowning, furrowed eyebrows
2. Body indicators
- Closed body posture when speaking
- Tone of voice when answering questions (changes in pitch)
- Open body posture when answering other attorney's questions
- Leaning back in chair with crossed arms (i.e. physically moving away) while answering your questions
Eye ContactDuring jury selection, watch to see if individual jurors are constantly attempting to gain eye contact with opposing counsel, frequently smiling in their direction, and failing to do the same with you and your client. When you are questioning a potential juror, look at where they direct their eye contact when answering your question. If an individual consistently pauses briefly and glances at the other attorney or at the judge before answering, this is an indication that the individual is unconsciously seeking the other attorney's approval and could be an indicator of bias toward either you or your client. Note anyone who stares toward you or your client, especially if combined with a lack of smiling, frowning, or furrowed eyebrows. In the context of social psychology, staring can be an indication of aggression or hostility, and if a potential juror is exhibiting such behavior, questioning should be focused on eliciting the bias in order to develop a constitutional for-cause challenge. Some people do not have good eye contact generally. A shy person may tend to look down and speak softly. However, if someone is biased, he or she will most likely look anywhere in the room instead of at you when answering questions. This is a very obvious cue and should never be missed. Finally, if a potential juror is frowning at an attorney or an attorney's client, especially with furrowed eyebrows, bias toward that party's position or case is evident.
PosturePotential jurors' posture while answering questions during jury selection is important. Leaning back in their seat when answering or turning the body slightly away are subconscious ways for a person to create distance and indicates hostility. Closed body posture (i.e. folded arms and legs, small movements if they use hands while speaking with limbs held close to the body), is also a nonverbal indication that the person is closed off to your case. Finally, changes in tone while answering questions, for instance, flattening of the voice or raising the pitch, are indicators of annoyance and potential bias.
SummaryThis is obviously not a complete list of bias-indicating nonverbal cues, but should give an attorney a good base to build upon as the attorney learns to recognize common nonverbal indicators. Here's a 2-minute video that can gives a more general perspective of how to read body language. If a person is showing signs of bias, the attorney's job is then to focus questions specifically designed to draw out the bias so the attorney can develop the for-cause challenge.
Christy Montour is an experienced lawyer with a master's degree in psychology, which really comes in handy in the court room.