Given the decreasing time attorneys have for conducting voir dire, it can be very useful to investigate jurors with publicly available background information. Simply running Google searches can reveal an enormous amount of information about a potential juror in a short amount of time. This public information often will come from social media sources. As Ben Hancock reported in his article for Law.com, “social media profiles can present a trove of data points for jury selection…[but] researching jurors online while keeping on the right side of the judge and local ethics rules is hardly a straightforward exercise.”
Once the jury panel has been sworn, prospective jurors are selected at random, seated in the jury box, and questioned. Counsel may conduct a “liberal and probing examination” that’s calculated to discover juror bias or prejudice related to the circumstances of the case. CCP §222.5. But if opposing counsel’s questions go out-of-bounds, you need to be ready to object.
Some attorneys erroneously think of their opening statement as the first opportunity to present themselves to the jury. In reality, the jurors will begin getting an impression of you—and by extension, your case—as soon as you begin voir dire. It’s critical that you use your interpersonal skills to connect with potential jurors as soon as they enter the courtroom for the first time.
Issues around pretrial publicity polluting the jury pool were at the forefront in the recent case against Floridian George Zimmerman for the killing of an unarmed teenager. Attorneys handling high-profile cases are presented with a dilemma during voir dire: should they ask about pretrial publicity or not?