by Ken Lopez
I enjoy reading any article about juror feedback. However, finding such articles is pretty tough. Few authors have the time, budget or access to jurors to ask them what they think about the experience of trial and the lawyers involved.
As a litigation consultant, I have had the privilege of seeing many trials and mock trials over the past 20 years. In that time, I've observed certain characteristics that all mock juries possess. My colleague, Dr. Laurie Kuslansky, wrote a great article about commonalities among mock juries that is one of the best I have seen on the subject. Still, while we litigation consultants spend quite a bit of time with juries and mock juries, there is real value in hearing what others, such as judges and law professors have observed through study.
Below are three articles that offer meaningful insight into the minds of jurors. I think by reviewing these articles, any litigator will be better prepared for trial.
1. What Jurors Think About Attorneys: What if a judge collected data over a ten-year period from more than 500 jurors and compiled it in a meaningful way? Well, that is exactly what one Minnesota state court judge did, and the recently published results are fascinating.
Eighty-nine percent of this judge's jury trials were criminal. His goal in surveying his juries was to collect data about many aspects of the trial from the court building to the evidence displayed to the performance of counsel. The jurors were mostly from a rural part of the state.
You should read Judge Hoolihan's article. I found some of the interesting takeaways to be these:
- Jurors tended to rate attorneys highest when they represented the prevailing party. From the data, I can't tell whether jurors tended to side with the attorneys that they liked best, or whether the high ratings were the result of a form of the Ben Franklin effect where jurors tended to like the people they sided with more, simply because they sided with them.
- Jurors rated defense lawyers lower than plaintiff-side lawyers who were mostly prosecutors. Judge Hoolihan wonders whether this results from an anti-defense lawyer bias generated by Hollywood, but I would ask whether this is because the government generally has an advantage. I suspect it is mostly the latter.
- Jurors tended to rate defense attorneys much lower when they lost a case compared to the ratings of plaintiff side attorneys when they lost.
- Jurors wanted to see and hear more evidence.
2. Trial Presentation Too Slick? Here's Why You Can Stop Worrying: I wrote this article in 2011, and the real focus of the article is on a trial consultant who smartly took the time to interview a jury post-trial and record it. The results are fascinating, especially when you consider that this was a rural Arkansas jury. The jurors shared that:
- Jurors expect the use of technology.
- Jurors expect the use of PowerPoint.
- Video depositions synced with the transcript were very helpful.
3. What Jurors Think About Trials [PDF]: In this book chapter from a law professor at Northwestern University Law School, the surprisingly limited scientific study of jury trials is well-summarized. Here are some interesting findings:
- About 40 percent of all jurors initially want to get out of jury duty. When they were done with jury service though, more than 60 percent thought highly of jury service.
- 40 percent of jurors thought jury selection lasted too long.
- Jurors "are active information processors who bring expectations and preconceptions with them to the jury box, filling in missing blanks and using their prior knowledge about the world to draw inferences from the evidence they receive at trial."
- 51 percent of jurors wonder why certain people mentioned at trial did not testify. 27 percent of jurors held that very lack of testimony against the side that did not call the witness.
- 83 percent of jurors in civil trials said that an exhibit helped them reach a decision.
- 30 percent of civil trial jurors say that the verdict ultimately reached was not the majority viewpoint when deliberations started.
Here are more than 80 additional articles and free downloadable books on A2L Consulting's site related to how juries think and behave:
- 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said
- 13 Revolutionary Changes in Jury Consulting & Trial Consulting
- DOWNLOAD for FREE: Using Litigation Graphics to Persuade
- The Top 14 TED Talks Talks for Lawyers and Litigators 2014
- WATCH: Using PowerPoint Litigation Graphics
- DOWNLOAD: The Complex Civil Litigation Guidebook - FREE
- Practice, Say Jury Consultants, is Why Movie Lawyers Perform So Well
- 16 Trial Presentation Tips You Can Learn from Hollywood
- 80+ articles discussing juries on A2L's site