Empaneling a shadow jury is an effective method of providing your legal team with real-time feedback on the reactions of the actual jury. A shadow jury is a group of people whose personal characteristics match those of the real jurors on a case as closely as possible. This matching goes beyond mere objective demographics. Through a questioning process similar to voir dire, organizers select shadow jurors for their life experiences, attitudes and opinions that reflect those of specific jury members. The shadow jury attends every day of the trial, hearing the same arguments and seeing the same evidence as the real jury. At the end of each day, the jury consultant debriefs the shadow jurors to find out their reactions to that day’s trial proceedings, and they deliver that information to your team. Based on these ongoing responses, your team may adjust the emphasis, method or framing of your case. The following four points show the key benefits that a shadow jury can offer you:
1. Pinpoint Strengths and Weaknesses in Your Case
Even with the best planning, it’s not always possible to predict how jurors will react to the unfolding of a court case. The opposition presents witnesses that antagonize the jurors against your client, and you may find yourself scrutinizing the jury’s body language to glean what they’re thinking. Shadow juries are able to explicitly convey their responses to you, via the jury consultant, so you aren’t left guessing about the effects of the day’s proceedings. They help your team pinpoint areas that need more explanation or focus your presentation to make it more persuasive. Jury shadowing gives you a new interactive agility, tracking where your jurors’ sympathies lie on a daily basis. The American Bar Association’s Litigation News features an example of using a shadow jury, and points out, “Although the trial team did not know exactly what the real jury was thinking, they were able to make meaningful inferences from the shadow jurors’ reactions to the trial.”
2. Identify Strong Juror Opinions
Using a shadow jury helps you recognize which jurors remain undecided, as well as which ones have settled on a strong opinion early in the trial and are inclined to ignore further evidence. A good way to ensure that shadow jurors are not just telling you what they think you want to hear is to keep the shadow jury “blind.” (In other words, they don’t know which side hired them.) This practice enables your jury consultant to receive unvarnished opinions from the shadow jurors, and to recommend specific trial strategies to you based on each day’s feedback. For example, if you are working to defend a client and your shadow jury finds the plaintiff’s witnesses highly convincing, that may give weight to your recommendation that your client settle the case.
3. Keep an Objective Perspective on the Case Status
You are saturated with the facts of your case, and you may be so focused on presenting those facts in a certain light that you lose sight of how your arguments are perceived by the jury. Sharing a body of information in a coherent, persuasive manner can be surprisingly difficult, and has many hazards: You may inadvertently skip important explanations, because you assume your listeners already understand the underlying concept. Or, you might engage in a lengthy recital of details which seem relevant to you, but which are so dense that the jury loses the thread of your argument. A shadow jury will be able to give you feedback on what they understand, helping you fine-tune your delivery of information.
The jury consultant adds another layer of perspective, as he or she distills and condenses the shadow jury’s responses. With this expert assistance, you are provided with an actionable set of recommendations regarding the shaping of your argument, and your time is used effectively. The use of this type of intermediary also allows the shadow jurors to express their unvarnished opinions of each attorney’s presentations, and this provides you with valuable feedback. In some cases, jury consultants even bring shadow juries together to “deliberate” before your closing arguments, so that you can have a preview of actual jury deliberations.
4. Recognize the Emotional Cues that Resonate
Every juror (and every shadow juror) comes to the trial with their own emotional baggage. This creates a set of filters that influences how these individuals hear and understand the arguments you give. When you have daily feedback from your shadow jury, it’s easy to recognize when you’ve succeeded in eliciting emotions that will cause the actual jury to be sympathetic to your case. Other essential emotional cues concern the jury’s reaction to the personality of your witnesses and experts. For example, you may find that jurors have a negative response to an expert witness whom you’ve hired, and you may decide to minimize that witness’s time on the stand. Visual cues and graphic images also pack a strong emotional punch, and your shadow jury’s response may cause you to fine tune your use of these exhibits in upcoming sessions.
Shadow juries provide the closest insight you can get into the crucial “black box” of the actual jury. Using this valuable research tool can help you to shape your argument, and the feedback from a shadow jury may also be invaluable in persuading your client that a particular course of action will be in their best interest. Learn more about our jury consulting services and contact us today for complimentary case consultation.
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