Monday, May 2, 2011

Be Good to Your Jurors: Connect the Dots!

Recently, the foreman of the Blagojevich trial jury, critiqued the U.S. attorneys in the following manner:

“They didn’t impress upon the jury the importance of the different counts and how they related to the six schemes that Rod Blagojevich was charged with. And as a consequence when we went into the deliberation room we were very confused. We didn’t know how to start…it was days before we found the indictment. We didn’t even know that the indictment was in the evidence carts. Once we found that we were elated.” (Chicago Tonight TV show)

The foreperson’s assessment reflects a disturbing comment I hear repeatedly in jury debriefings and in focus groups: the attorneys do not connect their points or evidence to the specifics of the complaint. Furthermore, attorneys rarely fully explain the jury instructions to the jury, tying in those instructions to the attorney’s interpretation of the case.

This leaves jurors in the distress commented on above. They are confused, perturbed, and unable to think in a reasonable manner about the case.

Be good to your jurors. Always make the connection for them, in obvious, preferably visual ways, between the evidence and testimony, and the complaint/cross-complaint. Do the same with the jury instructions.

Experience shows time and again, that the attorney who presents his or her case the most clearly, all else being roughly equal, is the most likely to succeed.

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