Judge-versus attorney-conducted voir dire

An empirical investigation of juror candor

Abstract

Broeder (1965) found that potential jurors frequently distort their replies to questions posed during the voir dire. Considerable controversy has arisen over whether more honest, accurate information is elecited by a judge or by an attorney. The experiment manipulated two target (judge-versus attorney-conducted voir dire) and two interpersonal style variables (personal versus formal). The dependent measure was the consistency of subjects' attitude reports given at pretest and again verbally in court. One-hundred-and-sixteen jury-eligible community residents participated. The results provide support for the hypothesis that attorneys are more effective than judges in eliciting candid self-disclosure from potential jurors. Subjects changed their answers almost twice as much when questioned by a judge as when interviewed by an attorney. It was suggested that the judge's presence evokes considerable pressure toward conformity to a set of perceived judicial standards among jurors, which is minimized during an attorney voir dire.

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This article is based on the author's doctoral dissertation submitted to The University of Alabama under the direction of Stanley L. Brodsky. The study was supported by grant No. 83-IJ-CX-0020 from the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view or opinions stated in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. The author wishes to extend sincere thanks to Stan Brodsky, Ron Rogers and Steve Prentice-Dunn for their generous donations of time and assistance on this project.

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Jones, S.E. Judge-versus attorney-conducted voir dire. Law Hum Behav 11, 131–146 (1987). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01040446

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Keywords

  • Social Psychology
  • Dependent Measure
  • Accurate Information
  • Community Resident
  • Considerable Controversy