The body talks - loud
and clear. If you can hear it, you will gain a winning edge
in the courtroom - especially in the difficult task of jury
For example, you have a case
with the following facts: A 34 year old woman was riding in
her friends car when the car was hit by oncoming traffic.
The plaintiff suffered minor neck and back pains, but otherwise,
seemed all right. Now, however, she is complaining of depression,
lack of concentration and nightmares. She makes mistakes at
work, is nervous, anxious and ill tempered. She says her life
has changed dramatically since the accident and is suing for
pain and suffering and loss of ability to work.
Generally - and we are talking
in broad strokes, here - as plaintiff counsel, you want jurors
who are nurturing and generous. These are not the only characteristics
you are looking for, but they are almost generic plaintiff
traits in cases where someone is hurt and is trying to get
Your ideal plaintiff jurors
should be nurturing so that they will want to help the plaintiff
and make her 'whole again.' They should be open and receptive
to the fact of her suffering. They should be generous so they
will give her a lot of money.
These kind of people are
touchy-feeley; they are gregarious, socially oriented and
often work in the helping professions, such as social worker,
teacher, therapist, sales. They do volunteer work.
As defense counsel, you want
jurors who are more restrained and disciplined, both with
their feelings and their pocket book. They are more 'thinkers'
than 'feelers.' They believe everyone should take responsibility
for what happens to them and not blame others or look to others
to get 'fixed up.'
These kind of people are
uptight; they hold on to their preconceptions. They often
fill responsible positions in those professions which require
analytical thinking, such as engineers, accountants, computer
programmers and managers. They are usually part of the 'establishment,'
and are satisfied with the status quo.
If this is the extent of
the jury profile you carry with you when you begin voir dire,
you will make it through the process okay. But if you can
expand upon that profile by adding some nonverbal indicators
which can visually describe your ideal juror, imagine the
cutting edge, the distinct advantage you will have over your
This article will describe
some of those nonverbal indicators which will help you identify
the juror you want in this kind of case. I will describe a
set of opposite indicators, one set to identify a plaintiff
juror and one set to identify a defense juror.
These visual clues are subtle
hints about a person's temperament - not concrete facts. You
will rarely see these indicators expressed in black and white,
but rather you will experience them in scales of gray. Furthermore,
people can project contradictory clues about themselves.
Nevertheless, for clarity's
sake, I will describe these indicators in their extreme manifestations.
The challenge, however, is to know what to look for, identify
the clues and then integrate them into a coherent picture
which reflects the person's overall psychological patterns.
The Plaintiff Voir Dire
So, you are plaintiff counsel, looking
at the jury pool for potential plaintiff jurors. What does a
nurturing, open, receptive and generous person look like? What
kind of clothes does this kind of person wear? Shoes?
Hair Style? Accessories?
Let's look at shoes first,
because they are the tell-tale indicator of temperament. While
the mind is the reservoir of our thoughts, the body is the
reservoir of our feelings. Feelings live in the body, and
the body leaks. The further away from the head you go, the
more the body leaks its feelings.
For example, we might feign
a smile and say that everything is okay, when in fact, we
are feeling nervous and anxious. Someone looking at our face
could easily be fooled. But if that person noticed our hands,
he might see that we were rubbing our hands together, or picking
at our nails or tapping our fingers. And if by chance the
person could see our feet, he might see an agitated foot shaking
up and down or toes tapping. So the further away from the
brain we get, the more the body reveals what we are really
what we put on our head or ears will not reveal as much about
who we are as what we put on our feet. Therefore, my
point that shoes are the tell-tale indicator of personality.
What kind of shoes will a
nurturing, open, receptive and generous person wear? The style
will be casual and comfortable with plenty of room for the
toes, because these people don't want to be hemmed in. No
pointy tips. The heels will be low, because open people want
to be able to move around easily. No stilettos. Sandals, sports
and walking shoes are more likely to fit this person's style
than compact, tight dress shoes.
Some people who are open
and receptive will be more fastidious about their self-presentation
than others. They'll pay more - or less - attention to hygiene,
cleanliness, fashion and maintenance of their wardrobe. And
their shoes will reflect the degree of that concern.
So we cannot predict how
well maintained or clean their shoes will be. But we can guess
how well maintained and clean their shoes won't be. They probably
won't have perfect heels and a glossy polished finish. These
people are not obsessive types, so the attention they pay
to their wardrobe won't be obsessive. Similarly, their shoes
might go with the outfit, but not be color coordinated.
What about clothes? Their
clothes will be casually comfortable and loose fitting - rather
than tailored - because open people need room to move around
in. No cramming the body into tight skirts or pants or collars
that pinch. Jackets , shirts and sweaters will be open, not
buttoned up. Their clothes, like their shoes, will be clean
and neat, but not obsessively so. They'll will not look 'put
together,' except in a casual way.
And hair style? Their hair
style will be casual and naturally flowing, rather than highly
styled or gelled or plastered to the head. Indeed, the styles
will be "big" rather than small. Beards and mustaches will
be natural looking, rather than designed and sculpted.
We can predict that an open
and generous woman will probably carry a big handbag that
has room for lots of things. Her accessories will fit loose
on the body - no chokers, for instance or scarves tied tight
around the neck. Her earrings might jingle, instead of fitting
close to her face.
As you look over the jury
pool, the open and nurturing people will be sitting in open
postures, i.e., with their hands on the chair arm instead
of folded across their stomach. They'll be engaged with other
people, instead of keeping
The Defense Voir Dire
to themselves; they'll look relaxed, not worried. They tend
to be more on the heavy side than the light side -
not fat - but full bodied. A nurturing woman will more likely
have large breasts, for instance. These people will have some
weight to them and take up space. Their faces will be big
and eyes wide apart. Their whole demeanor will
Now, if you represent the defense in this
case, you will be looking for jurors who are the opposite, i.e,
up tight, restrained and cautious. You do not want people who
are expansive or ebullient; on the contrary, your ideal jurors
will be closed - closed to a plaintiff's suffering and clutching
a closed purse.
They will sit in the courtroom
in closed postures, i.e., with arms and legs folded, holding
on to themselves. They will keep to themselves, perhaps they
will be reading - giving minimum eye contact to others. And
because it takes energy to maintain a closed posture, their
body language will reflect some tension, i.e., a set mouth,
a furrowed brow, hands tightly knitted together, or better
yet - a tightly closed fist.
The more tension in the person's
body language, the more closed that person is. Notice the
different degrees of tension, therefore, between hands loosely
fisted versus hands tightly fisted with white knuckles. The
stronger the tension holding the body together, the more difficult
it will be to get that person to open up to new ideas and
Closed, up-tight people will
wear clothes that restrict their movement, that is, their
clothes will be tight fitting, tailored and formal. They will
tend to button their jackets and shirts, instead of leaving
collars open. Men might wear vests. Colors will be subdued
so as not to stand out in the crowd. Their clothes will be
Their shoes will be closed
toes and heels; no sandals, for instance or - for women -
no slings or open toe pumps. This kind of person will wear
more formal shoes than casual or sporty. The heels are more
likely to be leather than crepe or rubber. Their shoes will
be well maintained, if not buffed and polished.
A closed and restrained juror
will wear a hair style that reflects that demeanor, i.e.,
the style will be carefully cut, coiffured and maintained.
It will be neat and orderly and combed close to the head -
and possibly gelled - to prevent it flying about.
Accessories will be minimal
and understated. These are not flashy people who are trying
to show off. Whatever accessories they wear - jewelry, scarves
- will fit into the overall impression of a neatly packaged
product, with no loose ends hanging about.
An Art, Not an Equation
In summary, you can tell a great deal
about people by the way they visually present themselves to
the world. You cannot know what they will think about your case
issues, but you can know how they might feel about them. Shoes,
dress, accessories, and body language are keys to identifying
temperament and psychology.
Most important, the body
never lies. We might read it incorrectly, but the answers
are always there. If a
contradiction exists between what a person says verbally and
what that person's body language says visually,
trust the body language.
Being aware of these nonverbal
indicators will not guarantee you a jury panel ready to give
you an immediate verdict, but being literate in the nonverbal
language gives you that extra bit of information in jury selection
which can make the difference between an educated guess and
a wild shot.