Friday, May 1, 2009

The Nuisance of Jurors

Trials would be so much easier if you didn’t have to deal with jurors. Jurors wander off mentally during your most critical testimony, they’re distracted by an itch or a lawyer’s mannerisms, they’re irritated by an expert’s vocal tone, they disapprove of a witness’s attitude. Jurors misunderstand the law, making it up as they go along. Jurors impose their own version of what’s right or wrong, what’s negligence, what should be the standard - be it of care, warning, safety or other. Jurors deliberate as a group, which introduces the whole notion of group dynamics, complicating the matter further. Need I go on?

But jurors must be dealt with, and more importantly, we must deal with how they come to the decisions they make. For the better you can determine or discern what impacts those decisions, the more likely you are to succeed at trial.

This is where intense, targeted use of the pre-trial focus group can be especially valuable. Instead of letting focus group “jurors” elect a foreperson and talk over each other to arrive at a consensual decision, have a facilitator ask probing questions of each and every juror, to analyze how each juror arrives at their various conclusions, as well as observe how group dynamics are affecting those conclusions.

Knowledge is power.

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