In the courtroom and generally, the listener determines the meaning of communications. Because thinking includes a visual component, imprecise words encourage jurors to conjure up their own images of the facts. Of course, such images are based on what they think they have heard. For all jurors to view the case in the same way as the lawyer does, and obtain a verdict, it is understood that a minimum of nine jurors must have the same mental image.
→Lawyers are fact oriented; juries are perception oriented.
→Studies reveal that jurors are influenced primarily by what they see and secondarily by what they hear.
→The right picture, diagram or icon is often the key to influencing a juror’s thinking.
What steps do lawyers take to communicate effectively?
- Step 1: Know the facts and details of the case.
- Step 2: Decide what the focus should be.
To identify and consider how to work with jury bias is imperative.
→Jurors enter the courtroom with an anti-plaintiff bias.
→They have preconceived ideas about how the system works, who should be responsible, and ultimately, who will benefit from trials.
→During voir dire, a lawyer must eliminate potential jurors who have obvious biases that will prevent them from seeing the issues clearly.
→During the trial, a lawyer must work effectively with the biases inherent in the belief structures of the members of the trial panel.
- Step 3: Decide how to have the jury focus on the details by showing them visual images that illustrate your conclusions.
To overcome jury bias with properly designed relevant graphics
→Good design, layout, and color choices will elucidate your story which will lend credibility to the jury.
→Properly designed relevant graphics will help you and the jury stay focused on the desired details.
→Utilizing the appropriate media will influence the jurors’ opinions.
Is it possible to take advantage of Jury biases?
- Trials are stories; if jurors don’t interpret the facts clearly, they will visualize their own images.
→By introducing a clear picture that illustrates “your story”, you will enhance understanding and eliminate the tendency for jurors to create their individual stories.
→A photograph may show how or where something happened, but some visuals can work against you if jurors’ biases are triggered. For example, a photo with too many conflicting elements might be confusing and might mislead a juror; however, a graphic rendering of the same image without any extraneous elements, will help the jury focus on what you deem relevant.
→Photographs and maps can help orient the jury to where the case took place and can give jurors a sense of perspective. Photographs, however, cannot always tell the entire story. Sometimes, a simplified rendering of the maps and structures are necessary to pull your photographs and maps together and complete the lawyer’s picture, i.e. “your picture” of the case.
- Jurors have expectations about the consequences of actions and behaviors.
→They tend to compare how they would act or react to the way the parties in your case have acted.
→They have the benefit of hindsight in determining what could have changed the outcome.
→Jurors consider what a reasonable person would do in a given situation and what a reasonable person would expect as a result.
→If jurors can be shown that the defendant’s actions were unreasonable or that, had he acted differently, the outcome would have changed; then, the jurors will favor the plaintiff.
- It is important to determine when, in time, to start telling the plaintiff’s story.
The sequence of events must first, emphasize the defendant’s bad choices clearly and succinctly.
What is erroneous attribution?
How we see others depends on the shades we are wearing. The shades we choose to wear depend on our mood, memories, experiences and thoughts. In a technologically advanced world, we experience information overload. At any given time, we interpret process and remember a series of events. When we interact with people, we do not always have the mental energy to actively and consciously process all details about them and their behavior; therefore, we use time and energy-saving shortcuts. This process of automatically assigning meaning to a person’s actions is called attribution. Becoming aware of this erroneous process is key.
→Jurors focus on blaming someone. If the focus is on the plaintiff’s actions and the jurors think “If only the plaintiff had…;” the result is to blame the plaintiff and thus absolve the defendant.
→By emphasizing the defendant’s inappropriate actions, the jurors start to think what could have been done and the focus winds up on the defendants.
→Jurors ask themselves, “Who was ultimately responsible for what happened to the plaintiff?” Graphically illustrating who, what, when, where and how sheds a light on the decision making process that caused the plaintiff’s injury.
In a nutshell, knowing the facts and details of your case is just the beginning.
Creating an effective courtroom presentation includes:
- deciding on which details to get the jury focused
- utilizing jurors’ pre-trial and in-trial biases to your benefit
- Designing graphics that clearly show “your story” so that the majority of jurors reach the same conclusion.
Please, do share your point of view. Thank you. →