George Zimmerman Trial: Jury Selection Round 2

Voir Dire of 40 prospective jurors is underway. The jurors, identified only by number, and whose faces are shielded from the cameras, are being questioned as a group.

In the first round, the questioning was limited to exposure to pre-trial publicity and whether sequestration would be a hardship. In this round, the juror's opinions and experiences on a variety of topics relevant to the case will be explored.

The goal during jury selection, from a defense standpoint, is to try to identify the most dangerous or biased jurors, not the best jurors. It is more a process of de-selection. [More...]

Voir dire is an opportunity for lawyers to introduce jurors to their overall theory of the case and its various themes. The preferred way to voir dire is to ask as many open-ended questions as possible, letting the juror do most of the talking, because the answers make it easier to identify jurors who, as a result of their life experiences, are likely to be entrenched in their beliefs and resistant to the defense theory of the case. Instead of leading questions which call for a "yes" or "no" answer, like, "You'd agree, wouldn't you, that (some principle is correct)" it is better to ask "What is your opinion about..." or "How do you feel about ..."

No answer is a "bad" answer for the defense if it reveals a juror's true feelings. It is far better to get an undesirable answer on voir dire, when the lawyer has the ability to excuse the juror through a peremptory challenge, than not learning about the bias until after the trial when the client is in jail. If a juror gives a "bad" answer on voir dire, the lawyer can simply thank the juror for his or her candor and can ask if anyone else has the same views or other views.

Gerry Spence revolutionized the way lawyers approach voir dire. His method has become the standard. Here's an article explaining the "new voir dire" in understandable terms.

So far, all the questioning today has been by the prosecutor. I heard lots of "You'd agree, wouldn't you..." and "Does everyone else agree?" He also tends to lecture the jury on what the Constitution and law say. That's very old school. I expect it will get much more interesting when the defense gets it chance. The defense jury consultant, Robert Hirschhorn, who has been sitting at defense counsel throughout, is one of the best. He's no stranger to very high profile cases. He was Michael Tigar's jury consultant in the Terry Nichols case. The jury they picked came back with life in prison over the death penalty, which was a huge win.

The parents of both George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin were in the front row today (across the aisle from each other.)

As to the racial composition of the 40 jurors who passed the first round, reporters attending the proceedings have given widely disparate descriptions, mostly because they are judging by appearance. One news outlet says there are 8 Hispanics, while another says there are 2. They all use the terms White, Black, Hispanic and mixed race. But a juror that one organization will put in the Black or Hispanic category, another will deem to be "mixed race." As to one juror, there has been diverging opinions as to whether she is Black or Hispanic. Another has been variously described by those in the courtroom as white, Hispanic and mixed race.

The panel has 26 females and 14 males. The media hasn't focused much on age, but I think it's interesting that there are only 9 who seem to reporters to be under age 30 while 15 appear to be over 50. (None of those under 30 have been described by reporters in court as African American.)

I expect the questioning will be far more revealing and interesting when it turns from biographical details (do you have any relatives who are lawyers, is one question the prosecutor asked this morning) to their views on self-defense and other issues in the case.

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    "The goal (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by NYShooter on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 10:42:42 PM EST
     during jury selection, from a defense standpoint, is to try to identify the most dangerous or biased jurors, not the best jurors."

    That's interesting, is it really radically different from the way you'd pick a jury as a prosecutor?

    As the techniques, and technology, get ever more sophisticated I fear that eventually the lawyers will be able to seat just about any juror, and his/her predisposition, that they want. I don't remember the blonde, Scandinavian looking woman's name that helped pick the Simpson jury. But, I do know she ran circles around Marsha Clark's choices. She was really brilliant. It's kind of spooky that a trial can be over even before it starts, not by better evidence or presentation, but by picking jurors who have basically decided the winner in advance.

    Artful decision (none / 0) (#1)
    by Cylinder on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 07:18:42 PM EST
    From my layperson perspective, Mark O'Mara was on-the-ball by asking to have his time in one single block. He will be much better served by introducing these themes to an alert panel in the morning instead of starting it with a tired panel and then being interrupted as his presentation is building.

    I agree with your perspective above in that Zimmerman wants the jurors talking, but I think a significant amount of time will be spent doing the pre-opening statement shtick as well. I think he'll be doing his sensitive and quietly-intellectual law professor bit.

    I really want to see faces tomorrow. I guess someone on the team is grading reactions to themes. Which ones are captured by which theme and what ties those themes together.

    Article On Voir Dire (none / 0) (#3)
    by nomatter0nevermind on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 11:42:02 PM EST
    Thanks for that, Jeralyn. It's fascinating, and a rich source of clues for what to watch for in this process.

    I like this line.

    No informed strike was ever taken from a juror's "silence."

    That must be why the scuttlebutt (none / 0) (#4)
    by ruffian on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 01:41:26 PM EST
    in the jury pool during my recent jury duty was to talk a lot during voir dire if you wanted to lessen your chances of getting chosen. I just did not have much to say - and bingo - chosen!!!

    CNN is reporting (none / 0) (#5)
    by jbindc on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 02:16:59 PM EST
    That a jury of six women has been chosen to hear the case.

    Link (none / 0) (#6)
    by jbindc on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 02:17:39 PM EST