<![CDATA[Trial Innovations<br />Cutting Edge Trial Consulting Services - Innovations Blog]]>Thu, 10 Dec 2015 23:51:18 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Non-citizen Jury Duty in California:  Everyone seems to have an opinion, but what do jurors think?]]>Mon, 13 May 2013 16:46:11 GMThttp://www.trialinnovations.com/innovations-blog/non-citizen-jury-duty-in-california-everyone-seems-to-have-an-opinion-but-what-do-jurors-thinkPicture
As many of you may know, the California Assembly passed a bill that would allow non-citizens who are in the country legally to serve on juries in this
state.  How would this change the face of juries?  According to Fox
News, there are approximately 190,000 non-citizen, permanent legal residents in California.  The largest number of legal residents (50,000) come from Mexico.  Other sizeable numbers come from the Philippines and China, approximately 25,000 each.  Approximately 15,000 are from India.

The bill is not yet law, but it already has a lot of people talking.  Many have voiced their opinions about allowing non-citizens to serve on juries in California.
However, there is one group of people we have not heard from about this topic - jurors.  We are looking into juror attitudes about non-citizens serving on juries by asking jury-eligible residents of California how they feel about the issue.  We plan to release the data right here over the summer.  Stay tuned!

If you have any questions about this post, please contact David Cannon, Ph.D. at david@trialinnovations.com or at 310-431-9482.

<![CDATA[Five jury selection considerations for trials that involve a celebrity or high profile individual]]>Wed, 08 May 2013 22:30:55 GMThttp://www.trialinnovations.com/innovations-blog/fivejury-selection-considerations-for-trials-that-involve-a-celebrity-or-high-profile-individualPicture
There  is no shortage of high profile people in Los Angeles, so it seems that there is no shortage of celebrity lawsuits here… and they are closely watched.  

People  take notice when celebrities become involved in the legal system. 
Live updates are tweeted from court.  People talk about high profile cases on
social networks and among friends and coworkers.  Currently, people are talking about Reese Witherspoon’s recent arrest and about the Jackson family’s wrongful death case against AEG, but it seems like there is always a high profile case in the news.  Defendants like Jodi Arias and Casey Anthony become big names as a result of cases that take a life of their own.  Whether it is a  celebrity’s involvement in the criminal justice system or a high-profile person’s involvement in a civil matter, these cases shape the public’s knowledge, awareness, and perceptions of our legal system in significant  ways.  
But what happens when you have to strike a jury in a case that involves a celebrity  plaintiff or defendant?  I recently spoke with an attorney who was involved in a trial with a very well-known entertainer.  When the trial was over, most jurors “ran”over to the celebrity plaintiff to speak with him after finding in his favor.  The attorney said that the jurors were “fawning” over the actor even though each and every juror had said the plaintiff’s celebrity status would not have an impact on
his/her view of the case.  What happened?  

In many ways, celebrity favoritism is no different than any other kind of bias.  Some people may not admit to their bias, and some may even try to hide strong feelings or attitudes.  More commonly, potential jurors may not understand just how strong their impression of a celebrity is or how their feelings about that person will influence the way they think about a case.

How do you approach jury selection under these circumstances?  If the celebrity is opposite your side, how do you identify the people who say they won’t be influenced but who may “fawn” over the celebrity after the trial is over?  If you are
representing the celebrity, how do you spot those who may have negative feelings about your client?  
Following are 5 jury selection considerations for trials that involve a celebrity or high  profile individual.

Case research is important, but don’t underestimate the impact of having a celebrity present in  the courtroom. 
Mock trial or focus group participants may feel more distanced from a well- known person if they are watching videotaped deposition testimony.  After all, they may be accustomed to seeing that person on TV. So, the impact of the celebrity may be muted in research.  That celebrity may have a larger than life presence in the courtroom, particularly if the celebrity is present each and every day.  This is especially the case if other well-known individuals are going to testify at trial.       

A juror questionnaire is extremely important in cases with a high profile

Jurors are more apt to disclose attitudes and experiences on a questionnaire than during oral voir dire, particularly when feelings or experiences may indicate bias.  Include several questions, including an open-ended question, when asking about their impressions and thoughts of the celebrity.    

Multiple questions give us a better indication of how someone truly
feels, and you can follow up on inconsistencies during oral voir dire. When psychologists create personality tests and measures, they often try
to include at least four questions that tap into the same concept.  Furthermore, questionnaires can be developed that give us an idea of how strongly people feel about issues.  Allow participants to indicate their strength of opinion (e.g., strongly agree, somewhat agree, etc.) on multiple choice items.    

Social networking is particularly important in high profile cases.  

Care must be used when monitoring social networks so it is done both
ethically and legally, but ethical use of social network monitoring during jury
selection is very important in these kinds of cases.  For instance, look for public Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profiles. Which jurors have liked
or followed celebrities?  Those individuals may show a higher degree of celebrity favoritism.  Have any of the potential jurors posted about their courtroom experience on a social network site or blog?  

Get everyone talking with open-ended questions.  

Potential jurors often take the easiest way out with questioning. Many will talk as little as possible. If you give them a  “default” by asking whether they will be fair and impartial, many will take that opportunity and say “yes.”  You
won’t learn about their true attitudes or opinions.  Ask questions that get people talking and that give them little opportunity to cut their answers short:
     "How do you feel about…" or "Tell me more about…"

When someone admits a bias, thank them and ask, "Who else feels that way?"  Open the discussion up to the entire panel in an attempt to loop everyone in when someone admits a bias.  This can help promote disclosure among others in the venire.

Closely monitor the venire during jury selection.  Who is spending a lot of time looking at the celebrity?  

Look for subtle nods when questions are answered by other jurors.  Some people will subtly show that they agree or disagree by nodding even when they don’t speak up.  Look at reading materials.  While many people use e-readers or smart phones for their news, some will bring in books and magazines.  When the venire comes and goes during breaks, look for anyone who is reading pop culture newspapers or magazines.  

<![CDATA[ Do you know my name?  You are going to know my name! Celebrity favoritism and jury selection… ]]>Wed, 08 May 2013 00:46:03 GMThttp://www.trialinnovations.com/innovations-blog/-do-you-know-my-name-you-are-going-to-know-my-name-celebrity-favoritism-and-jury-selectionPicture
We are going to do a series of posts regarding celebrity and the legal system. 
What considerations should you take when you are involved in a trial with a high
profile party?  How do you conduct voir dire and jury selection when a celebrity
is  involved in a case?  How can you  identify bias?  What factors underlie
“celebrity favoritism,” or favorable attitudes that potential jurors could have
toward a celebrity plaintiff or defendant?

To get you thinking about the topic, check out the results from a recent poll
conducted by Reader’s Digest.  Just who are the most trusted high
profile people in America? Click here to find out.

<![CDATA[I’ll Serve My Country, But Do I Really Have to on the 4th of July?]]>Mon, 09 Jul 2012 18:17:53 GMThttp://www.trialinnovations.com/innovations-blog/ill-serve-my-country-but-do-i-really-have-to-on-the-4th-of-julyThe 4th of July is a time to celebrate our patriotism.  Unfortunately, with the 4th falling midweek this year, few wanted to show their patriotism by serving as a juror.  When a major  holiday falls midweek, the week is lost.  Some take a few days off before or after the holiday.  Some take the entire week off.  People’s minds are on BBQ, fireworks, the beach, and travel.  This led us to wonder how a midweek holiday would impact the composition of the venire.  
We did a little online research.  It’s  no secret that there are many websites people use to communicate excuses or ideas to get out of jury service.  However, I was surprised to see that people even use Yelp for ideas.  Not only can you get some good pointers
on a restaurant or hotel, but Yelp is also a source for trying to get out of  jury service! One of the most recommended strategies was rescheduling one’s service around a holiday.  People felt that attorneys and judges didn’t want to schedule a trial around a holiday, so it was a safe bet to defer one’s service around holidays.  What does this mean if jurors who have deferred their service get called  to serve on a holiday week?  These individuals are already trying to get out of serving, so they may continue trying different reasons until they are successful.   

How else might a holiday week effect the composition of the venire?  People with higher socioeconomic statuses would be more likely to have firm plans that include prepaid travel.  Those with lower socioeconomic statuses, if they planned to travel, may have more flexible plans that include driving rather than air travel. Therefore, those with higher socioeconomic statuses may be more apt to get out of serving during a holiday week. Some with longstanding plans would have already deferred out of that week.  This may skew demographics of the jury pool.  Depending on your case and client, this may be more or less of an advantage.  
We have no control over who shows up in the venire.  Sometimes it is just the luck of the draw.  Sometimes the pool really looks as if it mirrors the community’s demographics.  Sometimes it just doesn’t look like what we would have expected.  The most extreme example was a trial I had in Fulton County Superior Court in Atlanta. Over 40% of the jury pool was under the age of 23, and most of those individuals were Caucasian college students from the county’s affluent north side.  It turns out that all of those individuals had deferred their service while they were away at college.  While this is an extreme example, certain events, such as a holiday falling midweek, definitely could have an impact on who shows up for jury duty.  

<![CDATA[What do you think about having an attorney on your jury? What about 3 Judges? ]]>Wed, 14 Mar 2012 17:08:40 GMThttp://www.trialinnovations.com/innovations-blog/what-do-you-think-about-having-an-attorney-on-your-jury-what-about-3-judgeshttp://illinoislawreview.org/wp-content/ilr-content/articles/2011/2/Senger.pdf
We recently hosted members of the Japanese Media, through the U.S. State Department.  These individuals had come to the United States to learn more about our legal system.  They specifically requested to speak with a jury consultant in order to
learn more about how juries work in our country.  Japan recently established a mixed jury-judge system (6 jurors plus 3 judges) that hear criminal cases together and decide by majority vote. Our guests told us that Japan wanted to get its citizens involved in its legal system.  For more information, please check out the above link.     

<![CDATA[No Thanks, “Google,” I Can Come up with an Excuse to Get out of Jury Duty on my Own.]]>Fri, 02 Mar 2012 17:55:39 GMThttp://www.trialinnovations.com/innovations-blog/no-thanks-google-i-can-come-up-with-an-excuse-to-get-out-of-jury-duty-on-my-own
Excuses about getting out of jury duty are everywhere.  At this point, I wouldn’t even be shocked to see excuses posted on a roadside billboard.  Most of us have probably heard from family or friends who proudly proclaimed that they got out of serving.  They then proceed to tell us what worked for them.  We see skits on television about avoiding jury service.  I even recently saw a performance by the Groundlings Comedy Troup that featured comedians offering outrageous excuses as to why they could not serve.  Why can’t I serve, your Honor?  Well, I am waiting for a UFO to pick me up this Thursday.  They are coming from very far away, so it’s too late to reschedule.  (At least it’s entertaining and original, and it worked for the Groundlings.)

Today, however, communications are very different than they were just 10-15 years ago because of the Internet and Social Media.  There are countless articles online that offer a variety of suggestions about how to get out of jury duty, serving as an encyclopedia of excuses that is available 24/7.  Websites ranging from credible news sources to blogs offer advice, pointers, personal experiences that worked and didn’t work for potential jurors.

This led me to wonder just how many potential jurors are looking to the Internet to find ways not to serve.  I recently surveyed 73 mock jurors from Los Angeles County.  These individuals were recruited to reflect the diverse demographic characteristics of jurors who serve in Los Angeles County Superior Courts.  We asked a coupe of questions: 

(1) Have you ever “made up” a reason why you could not serve as a juror in an attempt to get out of serving as a juror?

(2) Have you ever looked online for suggestions about getting out of jury service?

Of the 73 participants, 5, or approximately 7% admitted either making up an excuse or embellishing a reason why they could not serve.  None of the 73 said that they had ever looked online for a reason or suggestion to get out of service. 

Fortunately, 93% reported that they have never concocted a reason to get out of jury duty.  However, those who did had no problems successfully coming up with a reason on their own.  Wouldn’t it be interesting if Los Angeles County jurors looked to the Groundlings for excuses?

<![CDATA[Voir dire is a lot like American Idol? Really?!? Then what can we do about it?]]>Thu, 31 Mar 2011 18:15:09 GMThttp://www.trialinnovations.com/innovations-blog/voir-dire-is-a-lot-like-american-idol-really-then-what-can-we-do-about-itRemember the beginning of American Idol every year where countless individuals brag about their ability to sing, only to reveal that they have no singing talent whatsoever?  I’m confident that some of these individuals know that they can’t sing, but we Americans will sometimes do almost anything to get on television.  However, some of these contestants really seem shocked to learn that singing will never be their thing – ever!  They stand in shock.  They cry.  They proclaim that the judges will be sorry when they become huge singing stars.  What exactly is it with these people?  How did they get to this point in life with so little awareness of their actual abilities?  Don’t they have a clue?

Human nature is an amazing thing, and sometimes we blind ourselves to our true abilities.  If there is one thing we will always do, it is protect our self-esteem.  We all want to look good in front others.  Almost everyone feels that he or she is a good, reasonable person.  We want to see ourselves that way, and we desperately want others to see us that way.  We regularly see this in every jury selection.  Here, members of the community gather in a formal and unfamiliar environment.  They are asked whether they can be fair and impartial in order to meet their civic duties.  These questions guide and lead members of the venire to say “yes.”  Once again, we want to seem fair and impartial, especially in front of an authority figure (the judge) and a room full of individuals we don’t know.  Some prospective jurors will respond “yes,” even though we know they can’t be fair under any circumstance in our case.  This is the equivalent of one of those early contestants on American Idol bragging about her singing abilities, only to croak out a horrible rendition of a Whitney Houston song.     

I’ve seen many, many instances.  One recent instance that stands out is a product liability case where a young man was gravely injured.  His injuries were so severe that one could not help but feel for him.  Because this happened in a relatively small town, the judge did not automatically excuse members of the venire who knew the plaintiff or his family.  One eager individual in the jury pool, whom we will call Sarah, walked in and openly acknowledged the plaintiff and his mother.  Sarah greeted them with a “hello” as she walked into the courtroom.  During questioning by plaintiff’s attorney, Sarah downplayed any involvement with the family and was adamant that she could be fair because “she did not know both sides yet.”  She stressed that she would be “open” until she heard all of the “facts.”  She said she had not yet made up her mind.  Sound familiar?   

Now, it was our turn to speak with Sarah.  We had very few peremptory strikes left, so we wanted to preserve them as best as we could.  Had we just moved into questioning about her ability to be fair and impartial, we would have gotten nowhere.  Instead, we opened her up.  I told my client just to get her to talk.  Ask her broad questions about how she knows the plaintiff’s family.  When does she socialize with them?  What has she discussed with them about the case?  My client interviewed her beautifully, in a manner that I call “talk show style.”  It turned out that Sarah was good friends with the plaintiff’s mother.  Sarah had even been at the hospital on the day of the injury.  She had spoken at length with the plaintiff’s family about the case, and she socialized often with the family.  She ended her questioning by emphasizing she could be completely fair to the defense.  Sarah wanted on the jury, badly. 

Was this a case of no insight, of someone just wanting to be viewed as a fair and reasonable person, or did she want to be on the jury to take care of the plaintiff?  In the end, it really didn’t matter.  Everyone in the courtroom saw what we see at home when we watch an American Idol contestant painfully butcher a song.  Sarah was clearly wrong about her ability to be fair and impartial, and everyone in that courtroom knew it.  Sarah was dismissed for cause.

Sometimes jurors may have a secondary gain to serve as a juror, but more often than that, sometimes they just can’t really see that they are not a good fit for a particular case.  Rather than closing these prospective jurors up with close-ended questions like, “can you be fair,” open them up with open-ended questions.  Get them talking.  Think “Oprah,” by asking questions in a talk show format that make the prospective juror talk.  Start broadly, and then get more specific.  This way, whether that individual sees it or not, his inability to be fair will be crystal clear when you move for cause. 

Just like American Idol, sometimes song choice is key.  Just because a juror can’t be fair in one case does not mean she couldn’t be a fair and impartial juror in another case.
<![CDATA[Xtra Normal is sweeping the internet, and law students were among its victims. What kind of impact do videos such as these have on jurors? ]]>Thu, 20 Jan 2011 23:25:42 GMThttp://www.trialinnovations.com/innovations-blog/xtra-normal-is-sweeping-the-internet-and-law-students-were-among-its-victims-what-kind-of-impact-do-videos-such-as-these-have-on-jurors
By now, most of us have seen the ubiquitous xtra normal videos that have been sweeping the internet.  If you are anything like me, you receive one in your inbox regularly.  Each one is a parody of something new.  People who buy expensive cars?  Yep, they are covered.  What about people who insist upon buying iPhones over other smartphones?  Yep, iPhone owners have fallen victim to xtra normal in a particularly brutal video.  What about attorneys?  They are often an easy target.  Well, it should come as no surprise that there is a video poking fun of people who want to go to law school.  What's more, this is an extremely popular video with thousands of views.  In a society where communications are so rapid and where the internet can create a celebrity in days (e.g., think "Golden Voice), what kind of impact do videos such as these have on juror perceptions of attorneys?  It is my observation that videos such as the one above simply support long standing stereotypes of attorneys.  In graduate school, I conducted a research study that looked at attorney voir dire styles and their impact on juror verdicts.  I found that jurors liked attorneys who were somewhat ingratiating.  This helped build rapport and held juror interest during the voir dire process.  However, attorneys who were very ingratiating seemed to "flick a switch" with the jurors that resulted in jurors being more suspicious of the highly ingratiating attorney.  The jurors viewed the highly ingratiating attorney as being "fake" and manipulative, and this appeared to prime negative stereotypes of attorneys.  So, most jurors were willing to forgive stereotypes when they believed the attorney was being personable and trying to be relatable.  However, when jurors believed the attorney was not being genuine, they were more apt to assign negative lawyer stereotypes to that lawyer.  Therefore, by being your genuinely personable self, you can build trust with the jury and overcome some of these pervasive stereotypes with most jurors.  You can even use videos such as the one above to your favor by referring to them during voir dire.  "Many of us have seen those xtra normal videos with people talking in monotonous voices, and to my surprise, there was one that was negative about lawyers and law students.  It seems that negative lawyer stereotypes have taken to the internet!  Who here tends to not look to favorably upon attorneys?  I'm assuming none of you posted a video like that?"  By addressing these in voir dire, you get a chance to get a chuckle out of many jurors while also screening the jury pool for those with strongly negative attitudes or experiences with attorneys.  What is that saying?  When life gives you lemons like the xtra normal video, why not make lemonade?     
<![CDATA[First Post!]]>Thu, 20 Jan 2011 21:37:46 GMThttp://www.trialinnovations.com/innovations-blog/first-post