By Melissa M. Gomez
Special to the Legal
We have all been there. We have prepared for years for a trial, labored for thousands of hours taking depositions, writing briefs, preparing witnesses and doing all of the other things we do to put our case together. Then, we finally get to the courtroom, ready to pick a set of jurors who are supposed to make the final decision about our clients’ dispute. The jurors arrive. Voices grumbling. Arms crossed. Scowls on faces. Minds searching for anything and everything they can say or do to get out of jury duty. These are the people who are making this decision that will so greatly impact your client? Yes, they are.
It is easy to be disheartened going through this process, especially for your client, for whom the case is very important — potentially life-altering. There is good news, though. While I will admit that many jurors are cynical coming into jury selection and are resistant to having their lives disrupted for weeks to deal with someone else’s problem (and who can blame them?), it is a rare juror who remains completely uninvested in the case after being selected and hearing the story.
Once jurors get over the hump and realize that they are in it to the end, they take their jobs seriously and truly care about making a right and fair decision — in injury and commercial matters alike. Across the hundreds of prior jurors I have interviewed, most have found the experience to be rewarding, understanding and enjoying the concept that their opinions count and will have a real impact on the lives of others. Jurors who have expressed frustration with the process rarely (in fact, I can’t think of one) cite their frustration as a matter of having to make a decision on something about which they did not care. Instead, frustration was typically because they cared strongly enough to become upset when the jury could not agree and they felt that true justice was not well served.
Therefore, I do advise attorneys to manage client expectations regarding what clients may see in jury selection in terms of juror crankiness. A simple discussion on this topic can help alleviate clients’ stress that comes from thinking the case will be decided by people who simply don’t care. It is important that neither we nor our clients have undue worry about such juror attitudes. They will take their jobs seriously once in the jury box.
Melissa M. Gomez is a jury consultant and owner of MMG Jury Consulting. She holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. Her experience includes work on hundreds of jury trials in Philadelphia and across the country, with a focus on the psychology of juror learning, behavior and decision-making. She has more than 15 years of expertise in research design and methodology, as well as in behavioral and communication skills training.
This posting is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed or interpreted as advice specific to any matter. Each case is different and no strategy applies uniformly to all. If you have any questions regarding jury psychology that you would like to see addressed in this blog, please contact Dr. Gomez at email@example.com or call 215-292-7956.