debriefing in law

Many legal professionals are aware of the importance of doing research before selecting members of a jury. That’s why jury focus groups are so beneficial prior to voir dire preparation. Importantly, it can be just as beneficial talking to jurors after a trial has concluded. Specifically, debriefing jurors after a trial can help both jurors gain closure on a case as well as help lawyers by providing valuable feedback and suggestions that can be utilized in future cases.  Here is how debriefing the jurors works and why it’s can be so important.

Debriefing Jurors After a Trial

Working in the legal field often gives one insight into sensitive case information detailing disturbing accidents and severe, often times fatal, injuries.  Certain fields are of course exposed to these types of stimuli much more often, medical malpractice, wrongful death, and catastrophic injuries to name a few.  We often normalize these events in an effort to cope with exposure to such stimuli over and over again.  For jurors, however, this is a very different experience.  This may be the first time some of these jurors have ever been exposed to disturbing pictures and videos and for some who have been exposed to such injuries, it may trigger a deep emotional connection to a prior experience.

For jurors having trouble processing such information, post-trial interviews can have a real cathartic value.  This is especially true for cases involving murder, rape or any other type of violence. Basically, with any case in which jurors saw graphic pictures, read disturbing materials or heard emotional testimony, they may need some time to decompress and fully process the details afterward. That’s why legal services—such as juror debriefing—are recommended after violent or particularly disturbing cases.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Debriefing

During a trial, you expose jurors to disturbing information over a period of days, weeks or even months, and then you tell them not to talk about any of it with other people. That can understandably be stressful for anyone to go through. Studies have shown that allowing people to talk about their emotions surrounding a horrific event in a controlled environment can reduce their stress levels faster than trying to process it on one’s own. In addition, debriefing jurors after a trial can provide some closure for them, allowing them to go back to their lives without obsessing over case details that have haunted them for a while.  AT the very least, it provides jurors an outlet to vent about disagreements they had with other jurors, issues they may have had with specific verdict questions, or difficult issues to tackle collectively.

Generally, there are very few disadvantages of legal services like jury debriefing.  Aside from receiving critical feedback which may hurt the ego, even such information can be helpful in shifting trial strategy in future cases to find ways to better relate to jurors.  In fact, there are no reported drawbacks for jurors, as it’s a voluntary offering, if they do not want to be bothered by answering questions or want to forget the trial altogether, they can choose to not participate.  The only concern about debriefing may be cost, as the court typically pays for it, and courts in some areas might not have the funds available. For this reason, jury debriefing is not available everywhere or after every type of case, but it is growing in popularity, which is good news for jurors and trial teams.

Our Juror Post- Trial Interview Service

At Magna Legal Services, we understand the benefits of talking to jurors after the trial. After all, we want jurors to get closure and any support they need after a difficult case. However, we’ve also found that post-trial interviews help the legal team, as talking to jurors allows us to understand how the jury arrived at a verdict. This way, we can gather valuable insights about the case, witnesses, lawyers and anyone else involved in the trial. We can then relay that information to our clients and they can use that to shape their approach to trial in future cases.

When our consultants conduct post-trial interviews, they contact every member of the jury after the trial ends, and ask if they would like to speak with our team. Then we ask questions about their general experience, the jury group dynamic, how each juror voted and why, and critical feedback on the attorneys for both sides.  All of this feedback is put together by our consultants in a comprehensive report and delivered to your trial team.

If you want to learn more about jury consultation services at Magna Legal Services, please contact us today to schedule a deposition.