Countering Reptile Theory in Jury Selection: Educating, Persuading, and Overcoming Unfavorable Bias in Voir Dire

Recording of a 90-minute CLE video webinar with Q&A

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Conducted on Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Recorded event now available

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Course Materials

This CLE course will guide defense counsel in techniques designed to recognize and counterbalance plaintiff's "reptile" tactics when they occur during voir dire and jury selection as well as how to use jury selection to set the foundation for a successful result. The program will also discuss countering "reptile" issues that may arise with jury instructions and verdicts.


"Reptile theory" is a challenging and often discussed plaintiff's trial strategy. It subtly encourages jurors to envision themselves in the same situation as a plaintiff but with the power to "save" the plaintiff, themselves, and the community from future harm by awarding a large verdict. Plaintiff's counsel are taught techniques for identifying jurors who appear receptive to these ideas as well as how to exaggerate any biases of those who appear unreceptive to "reptile philosophy" and get them excused from the jury.

Defense counsel can equip themselves with skills and tools to recognize this as it happens and to take effective countermeasures. Counsel must be able to recognize favorable and unfavorable biases against their client and carefully try to get jurors excused who are most likely to issue a verdict based solely on their emotional response to the evidence.

Listen as our distinguished panel provides essential guidance to defense attorneys on navigating voir dire and jury selection and avoiding reptile tactics.



  1. Goals of voir dire
  2. Identifying "reptile" tactics during voir dire
  3. Identifying favorable and unfavorable biases
  4. Unalterable prejudice and rehabilitation
  5. Reptile issues in instructions and verdict forms


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • How can counsel educate potential jurors?
  • How can questions be phrased to make rehabilitation of negative jurors difficult?
  • How can the opposing party's strategy be ascertained from voir dire?


McDonald, Emily
Emily McDonald, Ph.D.

Litigation Consultant
Bloom Strategic Consulting

Dr. McDonald uses social science to identify the factors that effect and influence juror decision-making in the...  |  Read More

Voss, M. Jansen
M. Jansen Voss

Christian & Small

Mr. Voss has developed a diverse defense litigation and appellate practice in both state and federal courts in Alabama...  |  Read More

Whitlock, Kathryn
Kathryn S. (Kate) Whitlock

Wood Smith Henning & Berman

Kate Whitlock is a partner with the Atlanta office of Wood Smith Henning & Berman, LLP. She has spent her entire...  |  Read More

Wilson, Kalyn
Kalyn Wilson

Jury Consultant
Bloom Strategic Consulting

Ms. Wilson has worked on over 200 cases to date and utilizes her aptitude for psychology to develop strategic feedback...  |  Read More

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