Each jury is distinct. Each jury has a different combination of backgrounds and personalities. Often times, juries are thought of as one unanimous group that thinks the same, returns the same verdict, and performs the same task. But juries are more than a unanimous group; juries are twelve individuals that join together to accomplish one task. Instead of looking at the jury as one, lawyers should view the jury as twelve individual members. Each member must be persuaded to look at the facts a certain way.
Since each juror, or a certain number of jurors, must be persuaded to look at facts a certain way in order to reach a desired conclusion, trial lawyers must find a way to persuade each and every juror. In deciding how to persuade each juror to agree with a certain interpretation of the facts, trial lawyers must take a strategic approach. It would be a waste of resources and nearly impossible for each trial lawyer to attempt to persuade each juror, instead trial lawyers should focus on persuading the jury leaders who will in turn persuade the other jurors.
Research indicates that jury leaders play a vital role in jury deliberations. In fact, jury leaders are important even when they are not the jury foreman. Strong leaders are able to help guide other jurors to view a set of facts in a certain way. When leaders convey their thoughts in a logical manner and in a way that the other jurors understand, they are very persuasive. Effective leaders are competent, esteemed and able to set themselves apart from the group while at the same time conforming to the group. Thus, jury leaders impact jury decisions.
Since jury leaders impact jury decisions, trial lawyers are wise to target the jury leaders. By targeting their arguments to persuade jury leaders, trial lawyers are able to indirectly influence the entire jury by directly influencing a few jurors. In order to do this, trial lawyers must pinpoint the jury leader because once the jury begins deliberations the jury leader “‘becomes chairman of the board, often deciding who will be given thefloor and for how long, when notes will be sent to the court, when there hasbeen enough discussion of a topic’ ... Each of these decisions offers an opportunity for the foreperson to exert influence, influence that may be exerted consciously or without awareness.”
Trial lawyers are wise to craft their arguments and conduct voir dire with the jury leader in mind. Although jury leaders, particularly the foreperson, are “not a particularly good indicator of where the rest of the group stands before deliberations … they are a particularly good indicator of where the group will end up.”