Lawyers and Jurors: Interrogating Voir Dire Strategies by Analyzing Conversations

Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Forthcoming

27 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2019

See all articles by Catherine M. Grosso

Catherine M. Grosso

Michigan State University College of Law

Barbara O'Brien

Michigan State University - College of Law

Date Written: July 2, 2019

Abstract

This study of individualized jury selection for 792 potential jurors across 12North Carolina capital cases, selected with purposive case selection, analyzes the conversations that occur during voir dire to examine the process that produces decisions about who serves on juries. Lawyers question prospective jurors in voir dire partly to gather information about prospective jurors’ ability to decide a case without prejudice. Jury selection, however, suffers from what social scientists call demand characteristics. Demand characteristics provide a respondent with clues about the expected response and interfere with effective information gathering. We identified two characteristics that bear on the presence and strength of demand characteristics: the form and tone of the question.We sorted all 8,583 general legal opinion questions along a four-step scale by combining these characteristics. We then used time-series analyses to examine responses to these questions in sequence. Juror responses were longest and most likely to include an affective utterance when the demand characteristics were weaker, and that loquaciousness and affect fell at each step of the scale. An independent qualitative study replicated these findings, and supported the assertion that length and form are valid measures of quality in this context.

Keywords: capital punishment, death penalty, empirical analysis, jury selection, peremptory challenges, North Carolina

Suggested Citation

Grosso, Catherine M. and O'Brien, Barbara, Lawyers and Jurors: Interrogating Voir Dire Strategies by Analyzing Conversations (July 2, 2019). Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3428708

Catherine M. Grosso (Contact Author)

Michigan State University College of Law ( email )

Law College Building
648 N. Shaw Lane, Office 417
East Lansing, MI 48824-1300
United States

Barbara O'Brien

Michigan State University - College of Law ( email )

318 Law College Building
East Lansing, MI 48824-1300
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
14
Abstract Views
56
PlumX Metrics