Thursday, July 31, 2014

It Takes A Village: Yet Another Focus Group Advantage

I consulted on a case recently where one of the possible witnesses was an individual in a highly respected line of work. This person had some 30-odd years ago been involved in criminal activity, but in the years since had made a wonderful turn-around, and was a veritable pillar of the community, loved and respected.

The attorneys who had interacted with the witness said she was credible, quite charming, and would no doubt make an excellent witness.

With such a brilliant present, would the past matter? The attorneys and I weren’t sure, and figured the best way to find out would be to present the witness to a focus group. Not live, that’s rarely possible, but in a video clip.

Imagine our surprise when what struck the focus group members wasn’t the long-ago criminal activity, but the witness’s “smarmy-ness.” They didn’t find the witness charming, they thought she was smirking. The focus group members stated the witness wasn’t taking the present matter seriously, that her attitude was entirely too cavalier. They did not find her credible at all.

With that, since the witness’s appearance at trial was not obligatory, it was quickly decided NOT to have the witness take the stand. We would never have realized the impact of this particular individual had it not been for the valuable input of the focus group members.

Once again, a focus group saved the day.

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