Jury Summons

Jury Summons

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Juror Perspective in Deliberations

            Whether the case be criminal or civil, it is difficult, if not impossible, to predict how a jury will vote or act during deliberations. While there are many studies concerning how jurors typically act or statistics on how juries have ruled in the past, there is no way to precisely determine the outcome of a jury trial before that jury has actually ruled on the case. Each juror's perspective is the culmination of that juror's personal experiences and knowledge and this perspective inevitably effects how that juror interprets the evidence in a given case. This knowledge and experience, particularly if the juror has information that directly relates to the case at hand, effects how the juror evaluates and understands the evidence in a given case, how the juror interprets expert testimony and witness statements in that case, and how the juror pieces “the truth” together in that case. Furthermore, when the perspective one juror is introduced to the perspectives of the other jurors in a given case, each juror's perspective is influenced and may be altogether changed by the interactions that take place during deliberations–thus making verdict prediction a verifiable toss-up.
            So what can lawyers do to help persuade jurors in their favor? First and foremost, every lawyer needs to thoroughly and clearly explain the evidence and the law of the case (in lay terms, if you please) and how/why the evidence is important to the law. Of course, one must be careful not to tell a jury how to rule or how to apply the law to the facts in the case, but one can and should outline the most logical path for the jury to take to get to the “correct” answer. In doing this, it will be most beneficial for an attorney to use personable examples of everyday situations in which such evidence might present itself. As Jeffrey D. Boyd explains, a jury is more likely to understand and relate to situations that they are more familiar with, in that they will take to heart or scrutinize that which sounds correct based on their personal experiences and general knowledge about the subject. This means that if an attorney can adequately explain evidence in simpler terms or using an appropriate analogy, the jury is more likely to understand and identify with that evidence as explained by that attorney.
            Additionally, in cases where the attorney's position bears the burden of proof, the attorney must be prepared to combat opposing counsel’s argument that scenario ‘x’ happened with equal plausibility (if not more convincing) alternative, particularly with regard to the case’s overall theory as to what happened. While each party in the litigation typically already has a “story” as to what took place that brought about litigation, the important point is to have a story that sounds more likely to be true, and more plausible to the jury, so that they are better able to use their perspective and relate to your position. This can be aided by counsel’s effective use of analogy and plain language in order to relate their client to each and every member of the jury panel. When the jury relates to your client and recognizes your client’s perspective about the matter, they are more likely to side with your client, unless there is overwhelming evidence that the jury simply cannot ignore.

            Hopefully, these tips will help attorneys relate to and convince juries in their favor.

Best of luck.

This post was inspired by the writings of Vidmar and Hans in their book, American Juries: The Verdict, Chapters 6 & 8, and Jeffrey D. Boyd's article, "Focus groups and juror perspective" (Trial Aug. 2013: 20+. Academic OneFile. Web. 18 Sept. 2014).

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