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FOR BOB MARX, a signature on a juror’s questionnaire is more than a scribbled name-it’s a tool he uses to prepare for trial. Marx, a personal injury attorney at The Law Offices of Robert Marx in Hilo, Hawaii, regularly hires a handwriting expert to help him select a jury. “I feel like it’s a significant competitive edge,” he said. “It’s not 100% accurate, but if you know some history or a little bit more about a potential juror together with this analysis, it helps a whole lot more.” Since the mid-1990s, Marx has paid an expert to analyze jurors’ handwriting for all of his big trials. The findings help paint a picture of the jurors and point out characteristics such as whether they are likely to be leaders or followers, if they are analytical or visual, or toward which side they are likely to be sympathetic. Marx’s last three juries awarded a total of $31 million, and he said handwriting analysis helped him. “I think we would have done all right without it, but I do believe that we do better with it,” said Marx. Plaintiffs’ attorney John Kalo of the Law Office of John Kalo in Burton, Mich., said a handwriting expert helped him in about a dozen cases. “I think it’s a piece of the puzzle,” Kalo said. “It allows us to kind of put the pieces together of the types of questions we’re going to ask these jurors . . . .It’s the stepping point to having a meaningful voir dire.” Some are skeptical Handwriting analysis for jury selection has been used for decades, but the number of experts and attorneys who hire them has remained small. Some people remain skeptical about such work, but lawyers who count on it said it gives them a competitive edge. Testimony on handwriting for the purpose of analyzing personality traits is inadmissible in most courts. Lawyers, however, are free to use such techniques for the purpose of jury selection. They simply rely on jurors’ questionnaires that are already available to them and use such methods for pretrial preparation, not as evidence. In a recent case in which a police department was sued after a police car chase led to a fatality, Marx said a potential juror in a position of authority seemed to identify strongly with police, which would have been damaging to Marx’s case since he represented the woman who died in the chase. However, a handwriting analysis showed the juror was a rebel who would stick to his principles, and Marx said keeping him in the jury pool turned out to be a good decision. Handwriting experts say they look for a number of clues in a person’s writing, such as the amount of pressure used, the size and angles of the letters and spaces between words. For example, tiny writing may indicate a detail-oriented person interested in facts more than emotions. Leaders may apply a lot of pressure, use big letters and have angles in their writing, experts said. “I can generally tell which jurors are likely to be very strong jurors, meaning they would likely influence other jurors,” said Reed Hayes, who has worked on about nine of Marx’s trials. “By alerting the attorney to the people who are extra strong or assertive, they can focus a little bit more of their attention in their voir dire in questioning those people to get a feel for what their biases might be,” Hayes said. Fees for such services vary, but may start at $65 for analyzing each jury card to $4,000 for ongoing consultation throughout the trial. The Kevorkian trials Ruth Holmes, who assisted Kalo in his cases, said she also helped defense attorney Geoffrey Fieger with five successful trials for Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who was imprisoned in 1999 for second-degree murder only after he split with Fieger and defended himself against charges of performing assisted suicide. In one of the trials, Holmes said a potential juror was a Methodist bishop, which seemed like a bad pick for the defense because of his religious beliefs. But after analyzing the bishop’s handwriting, Holmes said he showed characteristics of common sense and leadership, and the defense attorney agreed to keep him. That allowed them to eliminate the next juror, who strongly opposed assisted suicide, said Holmes, a certified document examiner who is president of Pentec Inc., a forensic and personnel consulting firm in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Fieger did not return calls seeking comment. But some experts are skeptical. “What I haven’t seen and I would want to see is empirical data that if you rate somebody on handwriting analysis that is in some way related to some outcome measure,” said Jeffrey Frederick, director of jury research services for the National Legal Research Group in Charlottesville, Va.

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