Jury Selection: Scrap the Script

Today I went into court to pick a jury. I took a Powerpoint presentation talking about issues in the case. When the jury was in the hallway I went to hook up my laptop, and it wasn’t in my trial box. 

The Powerpoint presentation had become much like a a script, with a slide for every issue and all the slides in a particular order. I had used a similar presentation on my last trial. Apparently today I unconsciously sabotaged myself, forcing myself to follow Rule 6, No Scripts, by effectively tearing up my own script—leaving my Powerpoint presentation at home.

I recognized that I had sabotaged myself and resolved to make the best of it (Rule 1, Just Do It). As a result I had a much better jury-selection experience. Jurors talked more (Rule 4, 90/10), I talked more like a human being (Rule 5, MacCarthy’s Bar)…in fact, I probably followed all of the rules better for having discarded the script.

Last time I picked a jury I did a lousy job of following my Simple Rules, and the experience was unsatisfying for everyone. This time I feel I did much better.

In the future, I may incorporate a two-or-three-slide presentation into my jury selection (to give the jurors something visual) or—better—may create a randomly accessible database of slides and train a young lawyer to put the appropriate one up when we’re talking about any particular subject (they’re talking about reasonable doubt; throw up the reasonable doubt slide! okay, now the elements of the offense! switch to consent!), so that the slides follow the natural flow of the discussion rather than the discussion following the order of the slides.

Shoutouts: to New Braunfels trial lawyer Paul Smith, who coached me and made my presentation much stronger; to fledgeling lawyer Mana Yegani, who kept track of who had said what; and to Juror #40, Houston criminal-defense lawyer Murray Newman, whom I didn’t strike (but who didn’t make it on the jury).

p.s. My laptop actually was in my trial box—the black case was hard to see. So I didn’t sabotage myself by leaving it at home, but by not seeing it when it was right there.

5 responses to “Jury Selection: Scrap the Script”

  1. I’ve enjoyed applying your “Simple Rules,” to generally good effect, I think. And I’m surprised and pleased to see you testing your own rules, to see what works.

    I love the idea of a randomly-accessible (or more-readily-accessible) database of maybe more slides than you’ll use: slides for a bunch of places you might expect the conversation to go, instead of just for the places you want to make sure it goes. If that’s not already pretty easy with a tablet and a small portable projector, I bet it will be soon.

  2. You gave pretty solid reasons (both training AND experience) for not using scripts in voir dire, and it was your own rule.

    So, “surprised” because I think it’s unusual for people to go back and consciously reconsider their position, once they’ve made up their mind about something.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.