I got so much email about reading the Body Language of jurors since that last post about Bull. So I’ll go into a bit more detail here.
It’s Day 1 of the trial and you’re listening to the opposing council’s opening statement. Is she connecting with the jury? How can you tell if she is or isn’t? If she isn’t, how can she change that?
Let’s take a look at some Nonverbal cues that will have you reading the body language of jurors in no time.
Most lawyers are under the impression they have a pretty good handle on the Body Language and Nonverbals of a jury. Some of them actually do. Those are usually the older lawyers who have been through more trials and cases over the years than you and I can wrap our heads around.
Some get a “feel” for the jury early on and approach it as a single entity or animal. They look at it like “I’ve got them” or “I don’t have them” as a whole.
Some take more of a psychological approach and understand there may be one person on the jury who can sway the feelings of most or all of the others. If that’s the case, obviously it’s important to find that leader and win them over.
Is the term Jury Selection correct?
Even though it’s often referred to as “Jury Selection”, the jurors aren’t really “selected” they’re more or less examined. Then the attorney decides whether or not he would like to have that person as a member of the jury for that trial.
That process is called Voir Dire. I always pronounce it “Vwah-Deer”. Because the old guys say it that way. The French do as well. Some pronounce it “Voyer-Dye-er”. When I hear it pronounced that way I always watch the eyes of seasoned lawyers roll so hard you can almost feel the floor shake.
During that process most attorneys or experts who are asking the questions will focus only on the person who will be answering those questions. That makes sense of course. Let me give you a heads up on how to get good intel from more than one place at the same time.
Let’s say you’ve asked all the pertinent questions you wanted to ask the prospective juror on deck. Instead of letting that person leave or sit down, ask them one or two more good questions. Keep in mind, you’ve already made a decision about this person. So you’re not interested in their answer.
What you’re interested in is…
what the other prospective jurors think about those questions.
When you ask the next question, take a casual look at the other jurors behind her or near her depending on how things are laid out. Is anyone reacting enough to stand out in that quick look? If so, what are they showing?
The cues to look for from jurors:
– Movement in the hands: This may signal an adapter, letting you know that person is possibly becoming uncomfortable with the answer the person on deck is giving. Are the hands massaging each other or is one hand rubbing an arm?
– Slight change of facial expression: Look for disgust, distain, or maybe the opposite expressions to those. Does the person smile just a bit, frown a little, or roll their eyes?
– Seat adjustment: This could signal an adapter as well. Or it may signal interest. Check for other adapters dealing with the shoulders and the facial expression.
– Eyebrow movement: Are the eyebrows up denoting surprise or acceptance? Are they pulled together combined with a specific facial expression? Is one way up with the other almost in the squinting position?
– Disappearing lips: If the lips “disappear” this denotes stress. I call that Stress Mouth.
– Pursing of the lips: The cue suggests possible disagreement with the answer.
– Pursing the lips to one side: This cue denotes the possibility of confusion or an alternate suggestion depending on what the eyebrows are doing.
– Adjusting glasses: This suggests interest or possibly concern. Does the hand go to the mouth here? This may denote in depth thinking.
– Putting hand on or close to the face: We know there are a myriad of things this may suggest. However this situation is a bit different. So pay attention to where the hand goes. Does it stop when it gets to a certain place, like the chin? This suggests the person agrees but is still looking for more information. Or does go to the side of the face and push in and “dent” the cheek. Maybe the thumb goes to the jaw and the index and middle fingers rest on the forehead. These cues suggest discomfort. They let you know the person is most likely not at ease.
– Rubbing or pulling on the space between the nose and upper lip with the index finger and thumb: This cue denotes stress.
– Does the person squint slightly then almost freeze in place? This cue suggests a decision has been made.
Keep in mind…
These cues will be different from the cues you see the person on deck showing. That person is aware they are being observed. The people in the background aren’t aware they are being observed. This allows those cues to be observed in an environment of less stress.
If you can give every 3rd person on deck one or two throw away questions and use this technique, you’ll collect some valuable information on those waiting.
Keep in mind there are a bunch of “ifs” here. And it takes a little practice to pull it off without anyone catching on. However, if you pay close attention, you’ll see your shots and you can take them.
If you have any questions or want to know more ask just me at @ScottRouse3.