Analyzing jurors' handwriting: Q&A with Alice Weiser, graphoanalyst

By Correy Stephenson The Daily Record Newswire Alice Weiser was 15 and a half years old when she first tried analyzing the handwriting of other people, using knowledge she gleaned from a 25 cent book. Weiser later worked for a time at a detective agency, studied graphoanalysis (handwriting analysis) and psychology and became certified by the Institute of Graphoanalysis in 1974. She is the author of "Judge the Jury," which offers advice on assessing potential jurors. Today, Weiser works for attorneys and law firms, helping them "unselect" potential jurors by analyzing handwriting as well as body language and facial expressions. She estimates that her analysis is accurate about 80 percent of the time. Weiser spoke with Daily Record staff writer Correy Stephenson about how she analyzes a jury pool and helps guides attorneys to victory: Daily Record: What can handwriting tell you about a potential juror? Weiser: Handwriting ... is something you can't change no matter how you feel. The way a person signs his name tells you how they feel about themselves. It's a psychological calling card about how you would like to be perceived. For example, you can tell from a person's signature - especially a woman - if she is having a marital problem because her last name will often be smaller. Tiny handwriting indicates a very detail-oriented, analytical person who wants all the facts. If the person uses larger writing, especially slanted to the right, they are more emotionally vulnerable and more open to awarding larger amounts of money in verdicts. Daily Record: How does your analysis work? Weiser: We receive copies of the form filled out by all jurors when they are summoned for jury duty and we have a very short time to work with the information. Because jury selection is a very fast process, I feel like I need to give [the lawyer] an opinion, not just provide my analysis. If I really feel strongly about something, I have to tell the lawyer. I also try to learn a little about the judge's past, and whether he or she was appointed or how they ended up on the bench. If I have time, I try to sit in on another case in the judge's courtroom and get a sense of how they conduct proceedings. If the trial is in a different city, I will try to get there a day ahead of time and sit in a coffee shop nearby the courthouse to try to get a sense of the people we are going to get. Daily Record: Do you suggest questions for the attorney to ask jurors? Weiser: One of the questions I have my attorney submit is, 'Do you have any siblings?' Birth order is a very important part of jury selection. The first born in the family is usually the caregiver who feels responsibility for others. Every male astronaut is a first-born male, and 85 to 90 percent of CEOs and CFOs are first-born. They usually end up as a foreperson. I also like to ask about which television shows they watch. The person who watches "CSI" is more analytical and likes their problems solved in a short amount of time with all the facts. Daily Record: Do lawyers ever disagree with your suggestions? Weiser: The first case I assisted on was in 1987 against Ford Motor Co. The plaintiff was in a wheelchair after a car accident and asking for millions. The jury panel had over 100 people, and I told the lawyer that Juror No. 1 had to go. He was a lawyer, with really tiny handwriting and his wife was a CPA. I told the lawyer he wanted to sit on the jury and to be the foreperson. But the lawyer said that the juror really liked him, and [he] kept him. The man was seated on the jury and became the foreman. During the trial, the defense made an offer to settle for $2.3 million. The family asked me what to do, and I said, 'I can't tell you whether to settle or not, but I can tell you that there is no way you are going to get anything near this [from the jury].' They settled. Afterward we questioned the jurors and Juror No. 1 said he didn't feel the plaintiff deserved anything and was going to give her a token $10,000. Daily Record: Are there characteristics that you never want in a juror? Weiser: Every case is different and [I] never say never, but if it is an accident case or [the plaintiff] is asking for a large sum of money, I never want a bartender or a nurse, because they have heard everything. And I never want anyone who was in an accident and was rewarded less than what we're asking for our client. Daily Record: Do you consider other characteristics, in addition to handwriting? Weiser: I watch how [potential jurors] walk out of the courtroom. If they are fast-paced, walking with their head up, [they] tend to be decisive, enthusiastic and have a zest for life as compared with the person who slouches with their head down. I observe the way they sit in the courtroom and how they pay attention. I also look for signs that they are lying or telling the truth, like the direction their eyes go when asked a question and their blinking patterns. The average person blinks maybe 20 to 30 crisp blinks in a minute. If the pattern increases, the person is either nervous or getting ready to tell an untruth. If a person is asked a question and they swallow before answering, I would look into that. Voice change is important as well: a voice tends to go high for a little lie and low for a major lie. Published: Thu, Oct 20, 2011