Jury trials require a specific skill set on the part of attorneys and consultants working behind the scenes. In order to build a convincing legal case, advocates must structure their arguments with their audience in mind. The jury comes with a limited knowledge of the law but a set of opinions, biases and prior knowledge of the parties that will no doubt influence their conclusions, even if they are advised to put those notions to the side.
Pretrial research offers invaluable insight into the minds of your potential jurors. You can assess how their potential biases may impact your case and how you can work around them. Planning a successful trial strategy should incorporate these pretrial research findings, drawn from the community and focus groups. Before the real thing begins, witness preparation and mock trials ensure the entire legal team is attuned to the jury’s unique characteristics.
Community Attitude Surveys
Your juror pool comes from a designated community, with all of its attendant perceptions and attitudes about current events. Surveys are a useful tool to assess how knowledgeable your potential jurors may be about the case. From a practical point of view, this helps attorneys to decide what detail is needed to strengthen the argument.
Attitude surveys provide hints as to how a jury will respond to different pieces of evidence, so you can buttress your introduction of it accordingly. Framing the evidence in a way that supports your case is vital to achieving a successful verdict, as you meet the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt or balance of probabilities. You will also gain knowledge of what juror characteristics are likely to be least favorable to your case.
If you are designing a community attitude survey, bear some tips in mind to ensure the most relevant and accurate results. Avoid yes/no questions, as they often lack the subtlety that will allow for later in-depth analysis of juror behavior. Although you want to avoid simple yes/no queries, your questions should nonetheless focus on one opinion only to avoid compounded and confusing answers.
Focus Groups and Mock Trials
Pretrial research has limited applicability when you only look at the abstract statistics. To hone your argument and assess its strength before going to court, you should work with focus groups and engage in a mock trial. This allows you to test out all of the elements of your case to determine how to make your argument clear and easy to understand.
Specifically, focus groups and mock trials allow you to identify the important issues and pieces of evidence that have the most impact with jurors. Members of mock juries and focus groups will bring to light areas of confusion and confirm the most effective arguments and lines of questioning. Magna’s online focus groups software can get you started with these important processes.
One of the most challenging pretrial tasks for many attorneys is witness preparation. Once you have learned more about the environment of your courtroom and the attitudes of your potential jurors during pretrial research, you can support your witness in his or her testimony.
In order to help your witness to speak at trial, you can advise him or her to visualize the jury. For an inexperienced witness who may be crucial to your argument, the court process may be new and intimidating. Discussions before the trial can help you to put the witness at ease so nerves do not interfere with the importance of the testimony.
Pretrial preparation can help you assess whether the witness might have trouble communicating his or her message or providing information. Witness communication skills are analyzed in the context of the pretrial research on jurors. If there is a potential communication gap between the two, you as a legal team can provide guidance or language training services to make the testimony proceed more smoothly.
The process of going to trial is complicated even for the most seasoned attorney with the resources of a large and talented legal team. Despite knowing the evidence, the information revealed in discovery, and with relevant precedents and laws, the jury remains a question mark. Because ultimately the jury decides not only whether your case is successful but the size of a damage award, knowing the details about your jury can influence your advocacy strategy at every stage.
Magna is here to help, not only for your reputation and success as a lawyer but for the welfare of your client. Get in touch to see how our full suite of pretrial research options can help you gain the results you want for the people you represent.