Monday, January 5, 2015

Classic Juror Misunderstandings

The brilliant cartoonist, Wiley Miller ("Non Sequitur"), captured the misunderstandings between men and women as few others have. For example, the wife says: "Let's go shopping." The husband hears: "Let's go drain the life force from your body." The husband says: "Honey, are you almost ready yet?" The wife hears: "Life as we know it will cease to exist unless you can alter the space-time continuum."

My experience with jurors has led me to conclude that similar misunderstandings occur regularly in the Courtroom between attorney and juror. For example, the lawyer says: "Negligence." The juror hears: "Forgetfulness." The lawyer says "Proximate." The juror hears "Approximate." The lawyer says: "Standard of care." The juror hears: "Like OSHA." The lawyer says: "Preponderance." The juror hears: "Heavy thinking."

I could go on and on. Lawyers like to say a graphic will "depict" things. Jurors need to know what the graphic will "show." The lawyer says this event was "prior" to the current one. Jurors want to know what came "before" what. And "aforementioned" doesn't even compute.

You must speak a language the jurors understand if you are to persuade them. For example, explain legal terms such as negligence so there can be no confusion with the more common use of the term, forgetfulness. Use words you used before you became a lawyer; common words, easy to understand words, words that don't require more than a high school education.

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