Katherine Higgins, a trial attorney, gave personal commentary on how to respect jurors in the March 2016 issue of Plaintiff magazine.
Higgins recounted her luck in being picked to serve as a juror. She preached that trial attorneys needed to get out of the attorney box and into the heads of jurors in order to give them honesty. She claims trial attorneys tend to pay attention to who to call as witnesses, what evidence to object to, and how to get the language correct in opening statements and visuals, but not what a juror goes through from the time the juror receives a summons.
Jury duty may be inconvenient for some people. Jurors are not thinking about how they will resolve injuries for a victim of a medical malpractice claim, or end a breach of contract dispute. When a person receives a summons, the person may need to make arrangements to serve. If the person has a job, s/he has to explain to a manager or human resources why the person cannot go to work. Missing work does not always look good when co-workers have to take on extra duties. The person may have kids. To get to the courthouse, the potential juror may need to pay for childcare.
Jury duty may be a disruption to a person’s plans. The length of a trial may not be predictable. Some personal injury lawsuits, for example, may go on for weeks. When a potential juror gets chosen to serve, the person may need to put goals, such as finding a job, on hold. Some people may have to reach into their savings for food because they do not have benefits that pay for absences when serving on jury duty.
Because of the time imposed on a person carrying out a civic duty, Higgins suggests attorneys appreciate a juror’s time throughout a case. This involves having enough evidence and witnesses to present so that judges do not dismiss jurors early and they end up having to serve more days than necessary, and not asking too many foundational questions.
Some attorneys assume jurors do not pay attention. This may be offensive. Not everyone has to be educated in the law to be smart. Jurors usually scrutinize everything, including an attorney’s personality. Attorneys should not pretend to be who they are not through gesture or slang. For example, nervous laughter or pacing creates distrust.
Jurors find it offensive when attorneys minimize traumatic injuries such as calling severe brain damage a “bump in the head.” When a juror does not like what an attorney says, the attorney, rather than the facts, becomes the focus in the deliberation room.
Jurors understand simple exhibits. Demonstrations become memorable for the mistakes. It is not necessary to have visuals. However, when using PowerPoints, make sure they are perfect. Jurors remember the typos, not the expense that goes into flashy graphics.
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