Saturday, April 2, 2011

Will Juror Empathy Help or Hurt Your Case?

Delving into the group affiliation tendencies and reading habits of your jurors can give you valuable clues to whether or not a juror will be empathic, meaning able or willing to help others in need.

We’ve usually taken this to mean that the nature of the groups people join, and the material they read, are good indicators of how jurors will assess facts. Persons joining a law-and-order type group are more likely to be defense oriented, persons volunteering at a handicapped facility more likely to be swayed by plaintiff, and certainly that still holds true.

However, what researchers at the University of Iowa have found, is that the mere fact of belonging to groups of whatever ilk, is more likely to be connected to concern for others. Persons who are socially isolated tend to be less generous towards others.

The same appears to be true of reading. Just the fact of reading seems to be connected to one’s empathy. A line of research, conducted at York University in Toronto, has shown that persons who read little may be less empathic, and, more specifically, that persons who read less fiction report themselves to be less empathic.

As always, the types of jurors you want to include/exclude depends on your case. The more you know about what goes into decision-making, for example, empathy or the lack thereof, the more likely you are to choose appropriate jurors.