Teaching Witnesses to Help the Jury
By Harry Jones, Jason Bloom and Emily McDonald All Articles
November 19, 2012
Litigators must educate witnesses about effective courtroom communication so the witnesses can articulate a detailed and convincing story for jurors. Witness preparation must begin with understanding the audience, include what the witness legitimately can expect to accomplish during testimony and involve rehearsal of key communication skills.
No. 1: Simulate the trial experience during witness preparation. A lawyer on a shoestring budget can conduct an effective simulation. Aesthetic alterations to a conference room, such as lining up chairs to resemble a jury box, quickly set the scene for the witness. Office staff can fill the chairs to make the experience more authentic. Practicing direct and cross-examination within this environment helps the witness and attorney alike by rehearsing in a more representative environment.
Jurors have the same fundamental needs and fears that people have in everyday life: needs for inclusion and acceptance and fears of rejection and embarrassment. Click Here To Read More
The future of law is standing on the courthouse steps. Neurolaw – the combination of neuroscience research and the law – is worthy of attention for a number of reasons. Neuroscientists are conducting ground-breaking research with a machine called a functional MRI, or fMRI, which is similar to traditional MRI technology but focuses on brain activity, not just structure. Some would argue the use of neuroscientific evidence based on fMRI research is a premature adoption of a novel technology, but neurolaw evidence is already influencing jury trials in the United States and abroad. Billions of dollars are being pored into interdisciplinary neuroscience research each year in the United States and abroad. While we cannot predict the point in time at which the intersection of technology and law will merge to create credible courtroom evidence, we can look to neurolaw research today for research findings that confirm current trial practice techniques and offer new insights into jury decision making and the art of persuasion.
Current Criminal Trial Applications
In the United States, neuroscientific evidence has been admitted in over one hundred criminal trials now, has been cited in at least one U. S. Supreme Court case, and is being admitted as evidence in other countries as well. In many cases, neuroscientific evidence was offered to mitigate sentencing by presenting neuroimaging highlighting brain damage that could have diminished the perpetrator’s capacity and ability to make rational decisions. In one recent trial in Montgomery County, Maryland, Circuit Court Judge Eric M. Johnson allowed pretrial testimony about issues from the minutiae of brain analysis to the nature of truth and lies. After testimony by renowned experts in the field, Judge Johnson decided to keep the evidence out of trial, concluding the current lack of consensus among neuroscientists casts too much doubt on the results to present them as evidence to jurors. However, brain scan evidence was used in 2008, in Mumbai, India, to convict a woman of murder, along with circumstantial evidence. This conviction prompted strong criticism from bioethicists, who posit neurolaw research is still in its infancy, suggesting brain scan findings are not reliable at this point in time. Click Here To Read More
How to Help Jurors Render a Favorable Decision
By Harry Jones, Jason Bloom and Emily McDonald
September 17, 2012
The rationale for almost every jury verdict can fit on one side of a 3 x 5 notecard. “The company was not fair,” or “The plaintiff was deceptive.” Yet, lawyers spend dozens, even hundreds of hours addressing irrelevancies. The modern juror, inundated by information, craves simple truths. Here are some that trial lawyers should bear in mind.
There is no one recipe for a great trial team. Sincerity, a passion for the case, organization, consistency and a commonsense story are a good start. These low-tech attributes win cases and should remain the lawyer’s principal tools.
Attorneys should resist the urge to overuse flashy technology and graphics. Unlike the actors who play attorneys on the big screen, counsel doesn’t have the luxury of Hollywood make-up or second takes. Also, they should refuse the temptation to complicate the story.
Litigators must distill the case down to the essential facts. Counsel’s goal is clarity — in voir dire, opening statements, witness preparation and closing arguments. They should anticipate jurors’ questions; the best lawyers answer questions jurors are asking themselves.
Simplicity is key. Jurors hear what they understand; they do not understand all they hear. When polled, jurors seldom complain that lawyers made the trial too simple.
The good witness is consistent. That means his deposition testimony and his trial testimony should cohere. His verbal and nonverbal signals should agree. His emotions should remain steady throughout direct and cross-examinations. Each witness must know the case theme and deliver clear testimony to support it. This will allow counsel to show the jury how to connect the dots. Click Here To Read More
Shadow juries: Expensive but insightful tool
By Sylvia Hsieh
The Daily Record Newswire
BOSTON (Dolan Media) — During a recent med-mal trial in Pennsylvania against two doctors and a hospital over a birth injury, 12 people with similar attributes to the 12 jurors filed in and out of the observation area of the courtroom every time the actual jurors took a break during a recess, lunch break or sidebar conference. The 12 visitors were shadow jurors, chosen for their demographic similarities to the real jurors to give their detailed opinions about each day’s events to the trial lawyers.
The shadow jurors were not told — in fact great pains were taken to make sure they did not find out — which side of the dispute hired them.
Unbeknownst to the shadow jurors, the trial consultant who debriefed them each day was hired by the plaintiffs’ legal team.
“They didn’t know [for whom] they were working … but they were observing and giving feedback. Every day, they were debriefed during the lunch break, and we would receive feedback about what could be done better, how they evaluated each witness, and which defenses were stronger than others,” said Daniel Weinstock, the plaintiffs’ attorney.
How CEOs Prepare For Trial
Bloom Strategic Consulting uses mock courtrooms and “shadow juries” to help companies get ready.
For many C-level executives, the uncertain prospect of putting their company’s future in the hands of 12 strangers in a jury box is somewhat like walking into a casino with your hard-earned nest egg in hand. But what if you were walking in not with Lady Luck on your arm, but the equivalent of a card-counter?
Meet Jason Bloom and Alison Bennett of Bloom Strategic Consulting, consultants who take a scientific approach to evaluating how jurors are likely to react to a client’s case—including the evidence, theories, and witnesses.
“CEOs should ask if there is value to learning how a jury will react to the case before writing settlement checks or deciding to go to trial,” Bloom says. “Sometimes it makes economic sense to settle a case, but I’ve seen Fortune 100 companies settle for much less than they were willing to pay based on the results of mock jury testing.” Click here to read more
Congrats to Celenase, as well as the trial teams at McDermott Will & Emery and Jackson Walker on their total defense verdict in a jury trial in Houston, TX involving breach of contract and fraud. They all worked very hard and were a class act. Bloom is proud to have played a role in their success.