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Jurors appreciate the consistent story line that a theme provides. The theme is the thread that runs through the trial from the beginning of jury selection to the end of closing arguments. It serves to stitch together the disparate trial elements into the whole cloth of your theory of the case. The theme is a mission statement. It is the distillation of all the trial components into the essence of the question that is set before the jury.

Supplemental Juror Questionnaire

There is no more important instrument in organized voir dire than the supplemental juror questionnaire. Every case that involves complex issues, whether it be a death penalty trial, high profile case, or extensive civil litigation, requires the benefit of a solidly built juror questionnaire. When fully utilized, the juror questionnaire forms the foundation of the entire jury selection process.

Voir Dire Notebook

After communication, the most important aspect of jury selection is organization. Better the organization leads to better voir dire. The voir dire notebook contains juror cover sheets based upon the information in the juror questionnaires, voir dire questions, and other materials designed to promote a smoothly run jury selection.

In-Court Assistance

It is impossible to take notes and, at the same time, concentrate on what the juror is saying. The trial consultant frees the attorney to turn his or her attention to deeply listening to what the juror is saying and how the juror says it. The trial consultant also suggests follow-up questions for each juror, and may be engaged in assisting the client, if needed. At the end of each day of voir dire, the trial consultant leads the team in analyzing and rating the jurors who have been seen that day.

Jury Synopsis

Once the jury has been struck, the trial consultant writes a synopsis of the most relevant information about each juror, based on voir dire. The synopsis is intended to give the trial consultant's impressions of how various types of evidence and testimony may affect the individual juror. In addition, Maureen McLaughlin includes a thumbnail sketch of each juror.

Opening and Closing Arguments

The best time to begin working on opening and closing arguments is during the voir dire preparation. Opening and closing arguments need to integrate the theme, the evidence and the testimony, and to present them in a way that the jurors can embrace.

Witness Preparation

Every witness should undergo preparation before mounting the witness stand. The witness needs to understand the rules of the court, the facts to which he or she will be testifying, and also the emotional component of potentially being confronted on cross-examination. Through discussion, role-playing exercises, and psychological preparation, witnesses can learn how to successfully communicate their testimony to the jury.

© 2007 Maureen McLaughlin
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