Trial Strategy, Juror Opinions, Jury Verdicts
Many times, attorneys believe they have determined the key themes of their case that will predict a verdict. Often, they will contemplate their trial strategy by discussing the major case issues with other attorneys. However, when a jury panel consisting of laypersons listens to a case, their views and perceptions are often quite different from those of trained legal professionals.
During pre-trial research, panels of jury eligible citizens are presented with the major facts of the case and then asked to deliberate and reach a verdict. After a mock trial or focus group, the quantitative and qualitative data are analyzed to determine the consistent themes across jury panels. Case themes that are consistent across groups can be expected to influence the impaneled jury for the trial. This research allows the attorney to strategize trial presentation and target it directly to a jury.
Focus Group or Mock Trial Formats
Pre-trial research can be conducted in either a focus group or mock trial format. An interactive focus group allows you to respond to questions from the mock jurors throughout the event and is particularly useful at the beginning stages of case development.
Focus groups can be conducted in abbreviated, half-day sessions or in full day sessions. Multiple focus groups are optimal to examine the consistency of response across mock jury panels. As the trial date approaches and you are ready to practice your presentation in a more formal, structured format, a mock trial will best suit your needs.
Mock trials typically require a full day session. During a mock trial, participants playing the role of jurors are exposed to the arguments on each side of the case and are then asked to deliberate and determine a verdict. The trial team may view the deliberation from a separate viewing room. During a final debriefing session, interaction between the mock jurors and the facilitator allow for deeper probing into the psyche of the juror.
Automatic Response System
Trial Exhibits, Inc. uses the latest in cutting-edge technology to provide clients with moment-to-moment feedback from participants during the course of the mock trial. Each research participant is provided with an electronic response card on which he or she can indicate, on a scale of 1 to 5, how persuasive they find the arguments of the presenter. This automatic response is recorded in real-time during the presentation, allowing those in the viewing room to see a line graph of the responses as they occur. This allows you to quickly determine which aspects of your argument are most compelling to the mock juror.
A litigation consultant will be able to coordinate all activities of the mock jurors, conduct question and answer sessions to probe into the decision-making processes of the panel, and ensure that the deliberation groups are focused and on track. The consultant's job is to assist the attorney with planning the research event, implementing the project, and then analyzing the data and constructing a full report with interpretation of the findings.
Effectiveness of Pre-Trial Research
Focus groups and mock trials provide a more valid and reliable means of determining the likelihood that individuals in the jury box will perceive your case as you hope or expect. Focus groups or mock trials can provide assessment of:
- Key themes and persuasive arguments
- Juror perception of the case
- Clarity of demonstrations or exhibits
- Effectiveness of lay or expert witnesses
- Damage estimates or settlement decisions
Trial Exhibits Inc. offers multiple formats for pre-trial research depending on your research needs and budget. By taking advantage of our consultation services, you will benefit from feedback provided by mock jurors, recommendations provided by our consultants, and the ability to practice trial presentations.
A research scientist will assist you by preparing questionnaires to administer to participants during the course of the mock trial/focus group. The questionnaires are typically administered at several time-points to obtain a baseline of participant views, attitudes, and reactions to each segment of the presentation. This allows you to determine whether there was a particular point at which participants changed their views, or became solidified in their verdicts. The questionnaires can be reviewed on-site to allow you to adjust your presentation and test a new strategy. Additionally, automatic polling of participants can be conducted at the conclusion of each presentation to quickly determine the general leanings of the panel (for example, see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Sample Polling Question Administered During Mock Trial Study.
During the presentation and deliberations, clients may view the mock jurors from a separate viewing room. This provides attorneys with privacy and comfort while viewing the presentation, analyzing juror body language, or listening to panels deliberate.