Dateline: April, 2008, Issue 4

Is directive or non-directive questioning in voir dire better at identifying juror bias?

Prospective jurors are often asked directive questions in voir dire. Directive questions tell jurors the answer and ask for affirmation, rather than asking for jurors' thoughts. Examples of directive questions include:

Non-directive questions are open-ended; they do not restrict jurors to "yes" or "no" answers and instead ask jurors to explain a position, state their thinking, or make a choice. Examples of non-directive and open-ended questions include:

Middendorf and Luginbuhl (1995) studied the use of directive and non-directive questions in voir dire. Some prospective jurors were asked directive questions about their ability to abide by legal due process guarantees in a criminal trial. Other prospective jurors were asked non-directive questions about these same due process issues.

Jurors asked directive questions supported due process guarantees to a greater degree than jurors asked non-directive questions. Said differently, jurors were more willing to admit their inability to abide by legal due process guarantees when asked non-directive, rather than directive, questions.

Jurors also felt more comfortable with the non-directive questions than the directive questions.

In sum, a non-directive style of voir dire is more effective at uncovering grounds for cause challenges than is a directive style of voir dire. Non-directive questions more effectively uncover juror bias.

Source Middendorf, K. & Luginbuhl, J. (1995). The value of a nondirective voir dire style in jury selection. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 22, pp. 129-151.