It is becoming more common for attorneys to hire jury consultants to assist in the selection of jurors, especially for high-profile cases. The jury serves a vital function in the American legal system as the trier of fact. Its role is to weigh the evidence presented by both sides and to reach a fair and impartial verdict. Jury consultants assist in the process of voir dire in which potential jurors are interviewed in court to determine who will sit on the jury. The purpose of voir dire is to identify and remove individuals who cannot be fair and impartial.
Jury consultants use a variety of techniques to assist attorneys in jury selection. They conduct public opinion polls to gauge the opinion of the community where trial is to be held. They hold mock trials to present theories and arguments in order to test reactions of “sample” jurors. They also conduct focus group sessions to anticipate how a jury would deliberate on the case.
Jury consultants use behavioral research, personality profiles, and handwriting analysis to evaluate potential jurors. A person’s body language, demeanor, and appearance can provide important information about how that person would function as a juror (the American Society of Trial Consultants has ethics guidelines for gathering personal information about potential jurors). Jury consultants may also help counsel with witness presentation.
The attorneys for both sides in the case can make unlimited challenges for cause against potential jurors, and they may make use of guidance from their consultants in determining when to challenge a juror for cause. However, the judge has to agree that the challenged juror is too prejudiced to hear the case before that prospective juror will be dismissed. Peremptory challenges are challenges that can be made against a potential juror without stating any reason. The number of peremptory challenges allowed is generally set by law.