Magna consultants design and execute large-scale community attitude and perception surveys to determine community members’ pre-existing knowledge, attitudes, and biases about the parties and issues involved in your litigation, their verdict orientation and thoughts on damages after hearing brief summaries of each party’s respective positions in the case, and potential juror characteristics that predict verdict orientation. These studies allow our consultants to develop statistically reliable pro-plaintiff versus pro-defense juror profiles, and to determine the focus of a potential juror questionnaire as well as voir dire questioning in order to identify and strike the most dangerous jurors during jury selection. The feedback gathered from community attitude and perception studies also allows Magna consultants to advise counsel and clients as to the best approach to the litigation moving forward.
Change of venue jury research assesses the potential biases against your client of prospective jurors in your venue, and provides a data-based rationale for moving the trial to another venue. Magna consultants design and execute such studies by recruiting representative samples of potential jurors from the original and proposed new trial venues to complete a survey that gauges the communities’ respective case-related attitudes, biases, and knowledge/opinions of the lawsuit and parties. Change of venue surveys include questions regarding respondents’ demographic information, case-related attitudes, opinions, and experiences, a brief, neutral summary of the case, and questions assessing potential jurors’ reactions to the case, including their verdict orientations and thoughts about each side’s strengths and weaknesses. The data collected from both the original and proposed new venues will be compared and analyzed to determine whether any statistically significant differences in prospective jurors’ biases against your client exist between the two venues that would warrant a change of venue.
Magna consultants gather and analyze the demographic and verdict orientation data on the mock jurors in our focus groups and mock trials in order to develop initial profiles of pro-plaintiff versus pro-defense jurors to be used in voir dire and jury selection. However, such profiles are typically based only on trends and are not statistically significant or reliable due to the relatively small numbers of jurors on which the analyses are based. Thus, we recommend large-scale juror profiling studies that allow us to validate the initial profiles developed through our jury research and determine with statistical certainty what types of jurors are likely to favor the plaintiff versus the defense in your case. These studies also help us to narrow potential voir dire topics and questions to those which we know are reliable predictors of verdict orientation.
The JuryConfirm online jury research platform allows us to efficiently and cost-effectively garner specific feedback on targeted issues of concern to the trial team in an abbreviated, but still fully-interactive jury research session. Between ten and forty surrogate jurors are recruited from the trial venue for a 4.5 hour-long online focus group session. We take great strides to ensure that the mock jurors match those you are likely to see at trial. The selected surrogate jurors log into Magna’s virtual courtroom from their personal work space via a secure link and password. They then observe live presentations of the case given by trial counsel, which can take various forms depending upon the focus of the research. For example, a neutral description of the case to be followed by an interactive, moderated discussion, adversarial plaintiff and defense presentations to be followed by jury deliberations, or witness testimony to be followed by moderated discussion. Regardless of the format, the presentations can be supported by PowerPoints including key exhibits, demonstratives, and/or video clips or transcript excerpts of witness deposition testimony. The jurors then discuss the case in up to four separate groups, either in the form of deliberations (followed by a moderated debriefing), or moderated discussion with a designated Magna consultant.
The methodology for Magna’s adversarial focus groups and mock trials more closely approximates an actual trial, and constitutes a true test of both the plaintiff and defense cases as they would be presented to a trial jury. In a one-day focus group exercise, mock jurors observe adversarial “clopening” presentations on behalf of both the plaintiff and defense, which are accompanied by relevant exhibits, demonstratives, and witness testimony. After observing the case presentations, the mock jurors deliberate to a verdict. Magna consultants then conduct moderated post-verdict discussions to elicit further feedback on specific issues of interest to the trial team. In a multi-day mock trial, mock jurors observe opening statements on behalf of each party, followed by extensive witness testimony, and finally closing arguments. The attorney presentations and witness testimony are accompanied by relevant exhibits and demonstratives, which also allows for a test of the effectiveness of the demonstratives we have developed for trial. Magna’s graphics consultants will then be able to tweak said demonstratives based on the mock jurors’ feedback for maximum impact at trial. After observing all of the case presentations and witness testimony, the mock jurors deliberate on the case in up to four separate panels, each moderated by a Magna consultant who will also lead a post-verdict moderated discussion in order to garner the most possible feedback from the group. The feedback gathered from such jury research exercises allows Magna consultants to advise the trial team on the most effective trial themes and strategy.
Exploratory and solution-generating focus groups allow us to test specific case issues, such as jurors’ reactions to key evidence, witnesses, arguments, and themes. These initial focus groups inform us as to how well jurors understand and how they react to certain arguments and supporting evidence, what questions they have about such evidence/testimony, what additional information they would like to see or hear on the subject, what information they feel is most important to a verdict determination, what issues jurors are most interested in, what themes they tend to latch onto, and what their general verdict orientations are. Magna consultants use the feedback garnered from these exploratory focus groups to develop and hone what the results show would be the most effective defense case strategy.
We often recommend exploratory issue testing via our proprietary online jury research platform, JuryConfirm.
Jurors consider themselves experts on people, so the impressions made by a witness can strongly influence a jury’s decision making. This is especially true when such impressions are negative. Magna consultants will work with your key witnesses and provide them with performance feedback in a non-threatening context making suggestions regarding style, language, and demeanor.
Our consultants help witnesses develop a deeper understanding of the themes, context, and purpose of their testimony. We also explain to witnesses jurors’ expectations for their testimony, and we correct behaviors that get in the way of jurors’ positive perceptions. Magna consultants help witnesses feel more in control of their testimony while adhering to the rules of testimony and to avoid being “advocates” for their side of the case. We develop “safe harbors” that give witnesses structure and tools to deal with tough cross-examination questions. The use of videotape feedback during witness communication training can often help a witness identify what the jurors may perceive. These tools will allow your witnesses the opportunity to learn and practice strategies in order to best respond to challenging questions and deliver the most effective message at trial.
Magna consultants apply the results of potential juror profiling studies, as well as the knowledge gained from any jury research conducted on your case, to a cohesive voir dire and jury selection strategy. Our consultants recommend voir dire topics and specific questions that will be the most predictive of potential jurors’ likely verdict orientation in your case. Additionally, when the court permits the use of a written juror questionnaire, Magna consultants will develop such a questionnaire to be administered to prospective jurors before voir dire and jury selection. A Magna consultant will be present during voir dire to assist the trial team with the analysis of venire members’ verbal and body language responses to both sides’ questioning, as well as recommend the most strategic use of cause and peremptory challenges in order to “de-select” the least favorable jurors. A team of Magna researchers will also run background checks and social media surveillance on each of the prospective jurors using our JuryScout program to gain more insight into their backgrounds and likely verdict orientation than is typically possible through voir dire alone, flagging issues on which counsel can follow-up with each juror during voir dire. The information gleaned through our JuryScout social media surveillance can be very helpful for making more informed peremptory challenges.
The use of a shadow jury provides invaluable day-to-day feedback to the trial team on how the actual jury is likely perceiving the case. Magna consultants empanel a shadow jury comprised of members matched as closely as possible to the actual jurors’ demographics, case-relevant attitudes, opinions, and life experiences. Those shadow jurors sit in on the trial and observe all argument and evidence just as the actual jury does, and give us their feedback on the progress of the case at the end of each day. A Magna consultant then briefs the trial team on the shadow jurors’ feedback and provides strategic recommendations in preparation for the next day of trial. The shadow jury’s input allows the defense team insight into jurors’ understanding of key case elements, what questions they have; or on what aspects of the case they need further clarification, which arguments, evidence, and testimony they find most and least compelling for each side’s case, and their current verdict orientation. This real-time shadow juror feedback allows the trial team to adjust their strategy accordingly on a daily basis to ensure that the actual jury has the most favorable understanding and perception of the case possible, and is also important for addressing key issues in closing arguments.
Magna’s proprietary case valuation tool, Jury Evaluator, is designed to answer the critical question of how much a given case is worth. We recruit a representative sample of 25, 50, or 100 jury-eligible respondents from the trial venue and screen for any potential conflicts. After signing into a secure website and answering demographic and attitudinal questions, respondents are shown a video which provides an overview of the case from both parties’ perspectives, including supporting evidence. After respondents observe the case video, they are asked to indicate their verdict orientation, and then importantly, to determine the amount of damages that they would award if they were a juror in the case. The respondents’ damage awards are analyzed through our proprietary jury simulation analysis, simulating up to 1,000 potential jury verdicts. The results of this analysis allow Magna to provide you with a statistically reliable potential range of damages, including the average damage award if the case were to go to a trial jury. Our Jury Evaluator damages assessment studies are a confidence tool for counsel, clients, and carriers, allowing you to feel confident in the case valuation and your concomitant approach to the litigation, including settlement and/or trial strategy.
Magna consultants can monitor the progress of your trial to ensure that the most effective themes developed through our jury research paradigm are communicated to the jury at every stage. Our consultants work with counsel on trial strategy, including opening statements, closing arguments, the development of persuasive demonstratives, and witness outlines, as well as preparing the witnesses themselves, to assure that our messages are having the intended impact on jurors.