Dateline: August, 2007, Issue 3
Are jurors more candid in attorney-conducted or judge-conducted voir dire?
Jurors are expected to provide candid and honest answers in voir dire. Attorney-conducted and judge-conducted voir dire is not equally effective in eliciting this self-disclosure.
In 1987, Jones examined whether attorneys or judges were more effective in eliciting candid self-disclosure from potential jurors in voir dire. All potential jurors completed a written juror questionnaire and then underwent oral voir dire by either an attorney or a judge. Jurors changed their answers twice as often when questioned by the judge than when questioned by an attorney.
The researcher concluded that jurors changed their answers in judge-conducted voir dire in order to please the judge. Jurors felt considerable pressure to alter their answers to conform to what they perceived to be responses "preferred" by the judge, a pressure not felt in attorney-conducted voir dire.
This research also found that a warmer and more self-disclosive style of conducting voir dire was more effective in eliciting candid responses from jurors, a style only rarely adopted by judges. Even accounting for the style used in questioning, judges were never more effective than attorneys in eliciting candid self-disclosure from jurors.
In sum, attorney-conducted voir dire is more effective than judge-conducted voir dire in eliciting candid responses from jurors, and judge-conducted voir dire pressures jurors to alter their responses to conform to judicially "desired", though not personally accurate, answers.
Source Jones, S. E. (1987). Judge- versus attorney-conducted voir dire: An empirical investigation of juror candor. Law and Human Behavior, 11, pp. 131-146.