Group Dynamics & Jury Selection

When you are selection (or de-selecting) jurors, it is easy to focus on individual jurors to the point that you forget about how jurors are going to interact with one another.  Individual characteristics are extremely important, but so are group dynamics.  Consider, for example, the two following scenarios:

  1. You pick a jury of 12 and during deliberations, 11 are in your favor.  Through some discussion and persuasion, that one bad juror finally either gives up and gives in or is persuaded.  You win the case.
  2. You pick a jury of 12 and again, 11 are in your favor.  This time, however, the one holdout juror refuses to engage in discussions with the other 11 jurors.  She refuses to listen, to participate, or to be open-minded.  You just won yourself a hung jury.

Jury group dynamics do matter and there are some things you should watch for.  Observe which jurors are talkative and which ones keep to themselves.  If there is one juror who seems to sit by him/herself and not engage as much as other jurors, that could be your holdout.

There is also some reason to try to get a couple of jurors of the same ethnic or racial background on the jury together.  Research has shown that one person with certain views left to themselves in a group is much less likely to speak their mind than if they have just one other person on their side.  If the case has any racial implications and you want a certain voice to be heard, give them a backup voice.

If you have two strong leaders, consider whether they will be opposing or cohesive.  If you leave any leader on the jury, be sure they are on your side.  It is one thing to risk leaving a follower on the jury who may be against you, but a strong leader can be deadly.

As you question jurors, watch others for head nods and body language that speaks to their own individual agreement or disagreement with that statement, but also for indications of whether that juror is interacting non-verbally with the juror being questioned.  At all times, be aware of the dynamics.  Obviously, you cannot pick your ideal jury so you cannot control all dynamics, but make sure it is on your radar.

Leave a comment

Filed under Voir Dire

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s