Most courtrooms across the nation are cramped with desks, chairs, and some even have columns cutting right through the well. Because of this we get used to always having one or two jurors during jury selection that we can’t really see from where we are sitting. At first this doesn’t seem like a big deal. So what if I can’t see one or two people, surely I will know what I need to know about them when they speak? Wrong.
If you can’t see a juror while you are seated at counsel table you miss out on watching the juror’s body language when he or she is not speaking. When opposing counsel is working the room asking questions this juror might be nodding in strong agreement or shaking his or her head in disbelief. The juror may be making comments to the juror seated next to him or her. The juror may be rolling his or her eyes at opposing counsel. These are all things that you want to know.
But I’ll Just Ask When It Is My Turn And Learn This Information…
You may be thinking “well I’ll just ask when it is my turn to do jury selection and the juror will speak up.” There are three problems with this approach. First, you’re spending your valuable time on something that you could have gathered if you were able to see the juror.
Second, there’s no value in finding out information like who hates your opposing counsel through jury questioning. At best you get nothing, at worst you end up causing a juror that would be partial to you because they do not like your opponent.
And finally, the juror may lie to you about a critical aspect of your case and because you were not able to see the juror’s body language and reactions when the other side was doing voir dire now you end up with a person on your jury that could ruin your case.
Ask To Re-position Your Table Or Yourself Before Jury Selection
Most tables are not nailed to the ground. Let the judge know that you can’t see certain jurors and you’d like to move your table. Most judges will not have a problem with this. If that fails, because the table is bolted down, or because you have something unmovable in the way like a column, ask the judge to re-position yourself. Find a spot from where you can see everything that is going on and stay there. At worst you just wasted a couple of minutes moving, at best you learned some things about some jurors that could save your case.
do you have or know of a good chart system for recording information about each panel member during the jury selection exam. It needs to be simple but with enough information to use in the short time the judge gives you to strike the panel or when needed to justify strikes for cause.
These days for taking notes I use a laptop. A few years ago I used to get two folders and draw a grid on them and put each juror’s information in that grid. At the top of the box I would put a C for cause if the juror is to be caused or a 🙁 😐 or 🙂 depending on how I feel about each juror.
All of this is assuming that you are not the person doing the actual questioning of the jurors. I have never had to question the jurors and take my own notes at the same time so I do not know an effective way of doing that.
Hope that helps!
A grid drawn out on a manila folder will always be my favorite. It is the easiest reference guide when you going through actual selection.