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Jury Selection Tips


Judge William J. Haddad (Ret.)

Tips on Jury Selection

An English lady once asked the Lord Chief Justice what was necessary in order to win a case in court.  He replied: “First , you need a good case, then you need good evidence, then you need good witnesses, then you need a good judge, then you need a good jury, and then you need good luck”

Going into trial we may know that we have a “good case” and “good evidence”, but what we cannot know are the “human factors” which will never show up in the various jury verdict reporters.

1.         How will the ATTORNEYS do at trial?

2.         What kind of JUDGE will be assigned to the case?

3.         How will LAY WITNESSES & EXPERTS PERFORM in an actual trial?

4.         What kind of JURORS will sit in DELIBERATION?

These are HUMAN FACTORS which no actuary, adjuster, scientist, or computer expert can calculate —and these are what drives the varying verdicts seen in Cook County where the Law Division cases result in verdicts about 50/50% for each side.


1.  Most people are selective in the information they perceive and utilize deductive reasoning to reach  conclusions, impulsively using a few basic fact to reach a decision. This is often driven by pre- existing beliefs and attitudes which filter information  experienced, controlling whether they will  accept or distort information. . .

2.     Learning about these attitudes is easier when using indirect questions and some   demographics:   Age, Education, Employment history, Resident History, Maritaland Family History, Hobbies, Reading,  T.V. computer, Organizations, Experiences in life similar to  those in the case. . .               3.   Identifying Traits or attitudes similar to those of witnesses or parties. . .        

4.   Body Language and Appearances: non verbal gestures, furtive conduct,in appropriate   conduct,in  appropriate attire, unusually physical responses,restlessness, direct eye contact,“standoffish”  physical position. . .

5.   Leaders – Participants – Non-Participants         Leaders:  There are usually 3 leaders in a panel of 12. They are the “persuaders” who control the debate. If favorable to a  party, keep them.If not favorable, dismiss them. Participants: They are about 50% of the jury, basically followers who  can be persuaded butdo not actively persuade           Non–Participants: They are 25% of jury who take little or no part in  deliberation,  have they  minds already made up, will not  listen to reason. IF  favorable to a party, keep them. If not able, dismiss them.  . .              

6.     Example of jury selection profiles used in an Auto/Pedestrian Case where the plaintiff is cocktail  waitress:      Plaintiff jurors: Young, students, service occupations, socially active,  outdoors,  athletic, and high school education.  . Defense jurors:   Professional drivers, owner of business, nondrinkers, stay  home types,sedentary lifestyles, and college education.  

7.  Typical questions by lawyers: 

a.         Social Habits – restaurants, taverns, etc

b.         Attitudes toward social drinking

c.         Professional driving history

d.         Accident history

e.         Similar lawsuit history

f.          Hobbies and Interests

g.         Reading and Television

h.        Organizations

8.    Tips on how to Frame Questions to potential jurors

a.    If you know that you like a potential juror, then ask easy, closed ended questions 

and move one in order to keep the juror “under the radar”.

b.    If you know that you do not like a juror, then ask open ended questions inviting 

the  opportunity to find a basis for a challenge for cause.

c.    Indoctrination of the venire – If allowed, educate the venire on your theory of the case, 

the facts and the law. Be sure to ask them to follow the law as it pertains to an 

 important aspect of the case. Where the issue is “causation” get them to agree that 

they will follow the judge’s instructions of law, with special  attention to the “law of


d.    Stock questions for judge or attorney to every potential juror. 

1).         Will you keep an open mind up until the time that you retire to the 

jury  room to deliberate after closing arguments? 

2).         Both sides are entitled to a jury that is free from any bias, sympathy,

prejudice or misconception.  Can you promise to me this?

9.  Conclusion:

a. The importance of jury service is axiomatic.  

To be sure, jury service is among the most important civic functions that one can  perform. The United States Constitution repeatedly recognizes the jury institution as  a hallmark of our nation’s system of governance. See, e.g., U.S. CONST. art. III, § 2  (“The Trial of all Crimes . . . shall be by Jury . . . .”); U.S. CONST. amend. V (“No  person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on  a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury . . . .”); U.S. CONST. amend. VI (“In all  criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial,  by an impartial jury . . . .”); U.S. CONST. amend. VII (“In suits at common law, where  the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be  preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of  the United States . . . .”).

b.     Right to a jury from fairly drawn cross section.

Inherent to the right of a jury trial is the guarantee that the jury will be fairly drawn  from a cross section of society. See People v. Payne, 99 Ill. 2d 135, 138-139 (1983).  Working citizens compose an integral part of that cross section. Therefore, it can be  said that the discharge of an employee for having served on a jury implicitly infringes  upon the litigant’s right to a fair trial, society’s right to provide a fair trial, and the  citizen’s right to freely participate in the jury system, which is the cornerstone of our  justice system in an open and democratic society. See The Equal Protection Clause,  USCS Const. Amend. 14, § 1; Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 85-86 (U.S. 1986);  Martin v. Texas, 200 U.S. 316, 321 (1906); Ex parte Virginia, 100 U.S. 339, 345  (1880).

c.     Finally, it is important to let every jury know of the importance of jury service: that “there are only two times that your government requires you to give of your time in service to your country – Armed Services and Jury Service.  The jury is the buffer between peace and anarchy…. “