Dateline: May, 2008, Issue 2

What is the effect of minimal versus expanded voir dire?

Voir dire, especially in federal courts, is often limited to demographic information such as residence, age, marital status, occupation, spouse's occupation, children's ages and occupations, and prior jury service.

At times, questioning is expanded beyond this demographic information to jurors' experiences, attitudes, habits, and tendencies that are case-related (and sometimes more generally).

Moran and colleagues (1990) examined the effect of minimal versus extended voir dire in two drug trials. The ability to predict jurors' verdicts was 4 to 5 times greater with extended voir dire than minimal voir dire. Extended voir dire generated sufficient information to increase the accuracy in predicting individual verdicts from 50% (no better than chance) to 78% (well above chance).

Expanding voir dire provides useful information to guide the intelligent use of challenges.

Source Moran, G., Cutler, B. L., & Loftus, E. F. (1990). Jury selection in major controlled substance trials: the need for extended voir dire. Forensic Reports, 3, pp. 331-348.