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October 26th, 2019|

Many trials are decided based on which version of the truth a jury accepts from competing witnesses. An obvious strategy that is taught to witnesses (or really any other speaker) is that they need to build and maintain credibility. A jury must trust and believe what a witness has to say if they are going to accept the version of the facts that the witness is providing. In the drive to improve credibility, witnesses are taught many strategies, both verbal and non-verbal, for gaining the trust of a jury. Witnesses should spend significant time practicing these strategies because they are

Jury Selection in the #MeToo Era

September 7th, 2019|

“Franken’s fall was stunningly swift … reflect[ing] the cultural moment: In an era when women’s accusations of sexual discrimination and harassment are finally being taken seriously, after years of belittlement and dismissal, some see it as offensive to subject accusers to scrutiny. “Believe Women” has become a credo of the #MeToo movement.” Jane May, The Case of Al Franken, The New Yorker, July 22, 2019 Since the wave of headlines about allegations of sexual assault against Hollywood moguls, more and more women have come forward with their own accounts of sexual mistreatment in the workplace and beyond. #MeToo went viral


July 13th, 2019|

The degree to which a juror understands science can have a significant impact on the way they perceive the narrative, themes, arguments, and supporting evidence presented at trial. Audience analysis is the first step to persuasion, so what do we know about our audience? Scientific knowledge is correlated with education First, it’s important to note that your likely hunch is correct. Scientific knowledge is correlated with level of educational attainment. A Pew research survey conducted on July 21, 2018 showed that Postgraduates posted the most knowledge about science followed by college graduates, then those with some college, then High School

Maximus Your Witnesses

March 30th, 2019|

The first minutes of Ridley Scott’s 2000 epic Gladiator was an outstanding example of character development. You knew who Russell Crowe’s Maximus was from the start, and it would set up the struggle between right and wrong as seen through the lens of a man of justice and determination. In those first moments, Maximus does several key things to highlight who he is and what he stands for. • Reflects on the upcoming battle (alone and quiet) • Appreciates the simple things in life (a bird in the field before him) • Expresses empathy and understanding for foes unwilling to

Jury Consultant Advice: The Top 5 From The Advantage

February 22nd, 2019|

Thank you to our long time readers of The Advantage Blog and welcome to our new readers. It’s always gratifying when we hear that a piece of advice we offer has stuck in the memory and practice of one of our clients. In this edition of The Advantage, I thought it would be useful to look back at our most popular posts and highlight the advice you’ve told us is worth an encore. The Advantage went digital in 2011after its previous 10 years in paper form. I’m listing the top five articles of all time based on readership. I did

Have a Heart: How to Tread Carefully into Sensitive Topics

December 22nd, 2018|

A recent episode of This American Life, entitled “The Unhappy Deciders,” described a man named Sven’s experience serving on a jury charged with deciding whether a defendant deserved life without parole or the death penalty. There was no doubt about the defendant’s guilt for robbery and murder – the only question was whether he should live or die for his crime. Eleven of the twelve jurors felt strongly the defendant deserved the death penalty; Sven was the lone hold-out in favor of life without parole. His youth and non-confrontational nature stopped him from going against the group and he voted for the

Lessons from the Kavanaugh Hearings for Trial Witnesses

November 10th, 2018|

Now that some of the heat has started to diminish from the hearings of now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh, it is useful to look at some of the lessons that can be learned for teachers and practitioners of witness testimony. His testimony provides important instruction for trial witnesses, most of whom do not have the luxury (and misfortune) of speaking to audience members who have already formed their opinion about the speaker’s trustworthiness and credibility. The most important lesson that I observed was a reinforcement of the vital role person/act reasoning plays for audience members when attempting to draw conclusions about the

Putting the Spotlight on Bias Blind Spots

October 13th, 2018|

In an ideal world, every decision we make would involve a careful and logical evaluation of every fact, data, or piece of evidence associated with the subject of the decision. In this world, we would not rush to judgement based on previous experiences (e.g., I was bit by a dog as a young girl, so I do not trust this dog on the street). We would examine the available evidence (this dog is not barking or growling, it is on a leash held by a young boy, the owner assures me it is a nice dog, so I should trust

Making Delivery an Equal Partner with Content

September 15th, 2018|

I was standing around a table with some lawyers after a CLE I had just spoken at where I had (apparently provocatively) stated, “Delivery is not the little sister of content in persuasive speaking, she’s the twin sister. In the litigation community these days delivery is jealous of her sister because content gets so much more attention!” When I was a Graduate Teaching Associate, one of our lesson plans was to have the Speech and Communication 101 student evaluate the persuasiveness of four different versions of the same speech. The versions were: Good delivery, bad content Good delivery, good content

Getting the Most Out of Shadow Jury Feedback

August 11th, 2018|

Decades before the O.J. Simpson trial, America had another Hollywood “Trial of the Century.” Errol Flynn, a handsome Australian actor at the height of his Hollywood career, was adored by fans from around the world. That was until 1942 when he was arrested for allegedly taking advantage of an underage girl at a party. When she filed a complaint, the District Attorney remembered a similar complaint made by another young girl, and subsequently pressed charges against Flynn. Flynn hired famed attorney to the stars Jerry Geisler to represent him. It was said that during jury selection, Geisler purposefully left 9