By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm
During my most recent jury selection, the judge rather uncharacteristically allowed counsel unlimited time for voir dire. The team I worked with was delighted to have the extra time, but still stuck to a fairly disciplined approach of getting what was needed and getting it over with. (Message one to jurors: We respect both your opinions and your time). As opposing counsel's voir dire stretched into the second day of trial however, with no sign of a "please wrap it up" from the judge, it struck me: Our adversary has no idea of what he is trying to strike, so instead, he is just using his time to transparently trot out each of his case themes for the panel's approval. When it came time for strikes, to my eyes at least, he simply picked on the basis of demographics in a way that had nothing to do with the hours that he had spent talking with the potential jurors.
The better approach, of course, is to know your targets and to use the voir dire time you have -- whether brief or extended -- to uncover those factors. Sometimes your targets are based on your own judgement, mock trial research, or reasonable guessing based on past cases. But in other cases, the strikes can be drawn from larger-scale attitudinal research. Persuasion Strategies recently completed a project with the recruiting and survey company K&B National Research that involved a nationwide telephone study of 406 jury-eligible participants to measure attitudes on a number of topics relating to products liability defense litigation. In June, 2012, we asked participants about their views on product testing, labeling, and legal responsibility. We also asked survey participants to report their leanings on a number of brief litigation scenarios. This post, the second in the series, focuses on a few factors that emerged to characterize the jurors posing the greatest risk to a product manufacturer or seller.