Dateline: July, 2008, Issue 4

Is individual or group voir dire more effective at identifying juror bias?

Jurors are often questioned together as a group during voir dire. On occasion, jurors are questioned individually outside the presence of other jurors.

Nietzel and Dillehay (1982) explored the effects of questioning jurors as a group or individually in 13 capital cases prosecuted in Kentucky. More defense challenges for cause were sustained when jurors were questioned individually than when questioned as a group.

In 1987, Nietzel and colleagues replicated this research using 18 other capital cases tried in Kentucky, South Carolina and California. Again, more defense challenges for cause during jury selection were granted when jurors were questioned individually than when questioned en masse.

Individual voir dire leads to greater detection of juror biases.

Source Nietzel, M. T. & Dillehay, R. C. (1982). The effects of variations in voir dire procedures in capital murder trials. Law and Human Behavior, 6, pp. 1-13.

Source Nietzel, M. T., Dillehay, R. C., & Himelein, M. J. (1987). Effects of voir dire variations in capital trials: A replication and extension. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 5, pp. 467-477.