A Practical Guide for Developing Jury Selection Strategies

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By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D.

I’m proud to announce that Jury Selection Handbook: The Nuts and Bolts of Effective Jury Selection, a book that I co-wrote with Ronald Clark from Seattle University Law School, was published this month by Carolina Academic Press and will be available soon on Amazon and at a variety of other online retailers.

Seattle University Law School alum will tell you that Ron Clark is an outstanding professor who is a master at dissecting complex subjects for his students. This book is an extension of his approach. Ron and I dissect the jury selection process, break it down into all of its various steps, and discuss the kinds of strategic choices that attorneys have to make at each of those steps. Some of those choices may be obvious at times, but many others are choices that a lot of attorneys may not realize are available to them.

This book was written to serve as a very practical guide that any attorney can use to draft a powerful and effective jury selection strategy. The goal was to make it equally as valuable to a seasoned attorney as it is to a young lawyer new to the courtroom. We focused on the fundamentals of the process, showing how practices at each stage vary from judge to judge. This helps attorneys understand what the process can look like at trial. It is not unusual for me to assist an attorney with jury selection and realize that the attorney has not considered a variety of issues such as how and when the alternates are chosen and or how the judge will replace jurors struck from the box. The issues discussed can have significant impacts on the decision-making.

In addition to outlining these fundamentals, we also tried to challenge some of the traditional thought processes about jury selection and offer attorneys a variety of strategic tools. We tackle questions about “priming” the jury, whether or not “selling the case” in voir dire is a sensible strategy, and the risk/reward of addressing negative experiences or beliefs.

I once had a well-known and respected litigator tell me that his biggest fear at trial is jury selection. He told me about how he felt it was the moment in trial in which he had the least amount of control; this made him nervous as he did not know how to best approach the process. Over drinks, he tried to convince me that there are many more successful and experienced litigators who share these feelings than one might expect. Upon reflection, this claim is not so surprising. The data shows that only 1% of the cases that are filed each year actually make it to trial. In other words, jury selection is a rare experience for many litigators. Even those who have experienced it may go several years between cases that actually make it to trial. On top of that, even some of the most experienced trial attorneys still often employ misguided strategies that waste valuable time and actually help the other side. This book is our attempt to address these kinds of issues and concerns.

There are a lot of interesting ideas out there about what constitutes a “good” jury selection strategy. This book examines those beliefs and provides direction on how to make the most of jury selection in your case. As one review recently stated, “The book provides a foundation grounded in practice, but points toward the importance of some more advanced questions… For anyone wanting fresh or refreshed learning on the principles, the law, and the practice of effective voir dire, Jury Selection Handbook: The Nuts and Bolts of Effective Jury Selection is a resource that belongs on their shelf.”