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Overcoming Jury Bias

Fairfax Injury Lawyer Brien Roche Addresses Overcoming Jury Bias

Brien Roche

Overcoming jury bias is a problem that every trial lawyer confronts.  Jury bias doesn’t mean that the members of the jury don’t like the plaintiff. What it does mean is that every human being brings to the courtroom their own biases or leanings as to how they view things.  This is in part a function of how the human brain works.

Snapshot vs Video In Analyzing Jury Bias

There is a great deal of data that now indicates that at the time of any upsetting event the human brain records events not as a video taping them but as snapshots. The snapshots are separated both in space and time.  What that means is that if a masked man comes into a store holding a gun the persons in the store are all going to see different things. Their minds are working in snapshot mode.  The mind is literally taking snapshots at different intervals of different events.  As such when that person is then called upon to recall what happened, what they see are the snapshots. They do not see a video of the entire event.

The human brain takes snapshots of particular things or events if it is being stressed.  If it is not being stressed then it may take more of a video of the events. With that video it is able to look at the entire event in a more comprehensive fashion. Snapshots only give pieces of the action. Call, or contact us for a free consult.

Low Stress

The primary lesson to be learned from this by a trial lawyer is to lower the stress. If you do so the jury is more likely to operate in video mode. Video mode means relying upon the facts and not instincts. In addition it means seeing the big picture as opposed to being instinctive and simply relying upon the snapshots.

Keep It Simple

The defendant in many cases engages in the tactic of confusing the case as much as possible.  By making the case as confusing and as complex as possible jurors are likely to revert to their instinctive mode. This means they take mental shortcuts in the decision-making process.  Whereas if they feel as though they are not being confronted with a complex confusing picture then they are more likely to look at the entire picture.

If the jury is looking for shortcuts then what they may look for are things that define the character of one of the parties.  That is, does that party appear to be highly focused on himself. In addition the jury may focus on whether that party has been less than credible on any of the matters presented. Or does the jury have an overall negative sense of that party based on things seen in the courtroom.  Therefore any of those types of shortcuts may make it easy for the jury to ignore the facts and seize on things that make the decision making process easy.

The role of the lawyer in this regard is to convince the jury that the better method is to stick with the facts and the big picture. Therefore stick with the video and not the snapshots. Stick with the facts and not the instincts.

Overcoming Jury Bias or Judge Bias Is Not Easy

There is an interesting study that was conducted some years ago that involved trial judges.  Researchers asked one group of judges to rule on the admissibility of a plaintiff’s criminal conviction. Under the rules of evidence clearly it was inadmissible.  Another group of judges was not presented with this issue.  All of the judges were then asked to evaluate the plaintiff’s personal injury case assuming that fault had been established.  In other words they were being asked simply to award damages.  The judges who knew of the plaintiff’s criminal conviction awarded less money than did the judges who did not know of the conviction.  You can draw your own conclusion as to what impact the conviction had on the two sets of judges.

We All Have Biases

Although we’re very lucky to have a judiciary that tries to do the right thing, the fact is that judges are human. They have biases. Judges can be influenced by things that perhaps they shouldn’t be influenced by. They are just like the rest of us.

Overcoming any bias can be best achieved by keeping your case focused and simple. Make the process of judging the facts as simple as possible.  In that mode the judge or jury is more likely to adopt the big picture based on the facts.

Avoiding Jury Misconduct

In the age of instant communication, we all need to be concerned about jurors engaging in unauthorized research.  They may have been told by the court not to go to the website of plaintiff’s counsel.  Not to go to the website of defense counsel.  Not to go to the court website to check out the case.  Some of them may follow those instructions.  However some may not.  In voir dire, it probably would make sense to ask them whether or not they can follow such simple instructions as:

  • not researching the attorneys;
  • not researching the case;
  • not being concerned how any judgment may or may not be paid;
  • not being concerned about how any medical bills may or may not have been paid.

In addition it would be prudent to re-emphasize that in opening statement and also closing argument.

Call, or contact us for a free consult. Also for more information on Jury trials see the pages on Wikipedia. For information on personal injury see the pages on this site

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Overcoming Jury Bias

Fairfax Injury Lawyer Brien Roche Addresses Overcoming Jury Bias

Brien Roche

Overcoming jury bias is a problem that every trial lawyer confronts.  Jury bias doesn’t mean that the members of the jury don’t like the plaintiff. What it does mean is that every human being brings to the courtroom their own biases or leanings as to how they view things.  This is in part a function of how the human brain works.

Snapshot vs Video In Analyzing Jury Bias

There is a great deal of data that now indicates that at the time of any upsetting event the human brain records events not as a video taping them but as snapshots. The snapshots are separated both in space and time.  What that means is that if a masked man comes into a store holding a gun the persons in the store are all going to see different things. Their minds are working in snapshot mode.  The mind is literally taking snapshots at different intervals of different events.  As such when that person is then called upon to recall what happened, what they see are the snapshots. They do not see a video of the entire event.

The human brain takes snapshots of particular things or events if it is being stressed.  If it is not being stressed then it may take more of a video of the events. With that video it is able to look at the entire event in a more comprehensive fashion. Snapshots only give pieces of the action. Call, or contact us for a free consult.

Low Stress

The primary lesson to be learned from this by a trial lawyer is to lower the stress. If you do so the jury is more likely to operate in video mode. Video mode means relying upon the facts and not instincts. In addition it means seeing the big picture as opposed to being instinctive and simply relying upon the snapshots.

Keep It Simple

The defendant in many cases engages in the tactic of confusing the case as much as possible.  By making the case as confusing and as complex as possible jurors are likely to revert to their instinctive mode. This means they take mental shortcuts in the decision-making process.  Whereas if they feel as though they are not being confronted with a complex confusing picture then they are more likely to look at the entire picture.

If the jury is looking for shortcuts then what they may look for are things that define the character of one of the parties.  That is, does that party appear to be highly focused on himself. In addition the jury may focus on whether that party has been less than credible on any of the matters presented. Or does the jury have an overall negative sense of that party based on things seen in the courtroom.  Therefore any of those types of shortcuts may make it easy for the jury to ignore the facts and seize on things that make the decision making process easy.

The role of the lawyer in this regard is to convince the jury that the better method is to stick with the facts and the big picture. Therefore stick with the video and not the snapshots. Stick with the facts and not the instincts.

Overcoming Jury Bias or Judge Bias Is Not Easy

There is an interesting study that was conducted some years ago that involved trial judges.  Researchers asked one group of judges to rule on the admissibility of a plaintiff’s criminal conviction. Under the rules of evidence clearly it was inadmissible.  Another group of judges was not presented with this issue.  All of the judges were then asked to evaluate the plaintiff’s personal injury case assuming that fault had been established.  In other words they were being asked simply to award damages.  The judges who knew of the plaintiff’s criminal conviction awarded less money than did the judges who did not know of the conviction.  You can draw your own conclusion as to what impact the conviction had on the two sets of judges.

We All Have Biases

Although we’re very lucky to have a judiciary that tries to do the right thing, the fact is that judges are human. They have biases. Judges can be influenced by things that perhaps they shouldn’t be influenced by. They are just like the rest of us.

Overcoming any bias can be best achieved by keeping your case focused and simple. Make the process of judging the facts as simple as possible.  In that mode the judge or jury is more likely to adopt the big picture based on the facts.

Avoiding Jury Misconduct

In the age of instant communication, we all need to be concerned about jurors engaging in unauthorized research.  They may have been told by the court not to go to the website of plaintiff’s counsel.  Not to go to the website of defense counsel.  Not to go to the court website to check out the case.  Some of them may follow those instructions.  However some may not.  In voir dire, it probably would make sense to ask them whether or not they can follow such simple instructions as:

  • not researching the attorneys;
  • not researching the case;
  • not being concerned how any judgment may or may not be paid;
  • not being concerned about how any medical bills may or may not have been paid.

In addition it would be prudent to re-emphasize that in opening statement and also closing argument.

Call, or contact us for a free consult. Also for more information on Jury trials see the pages on Wikipedia. For information on personal injury see the pages on this site

Contact Us For A Free Consultation

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