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Public Debate about the Trump Investigation, Juror Deliberation, and Closing Arguments

September 9th, 2017|

This is peril. Not the kind of “mortal peril” the young Weasley children faced from time to time, but the kind of client relations peril that comes with wading, even ever so slightly, into one of the most polarizing issues, at one of the most polarizing political periods in our society. So, I plan to be delicate, avoiding opinion about the process or outcome of the investigations of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence. What I want to do is focus on the nature of “evidence” and “proof,” pointing out the use and misuse of the concepts

Improving Litigation Team Decision Making

August 19th, 2017|

“I pissed off one of my team members,” our client said (we’ll call her Claire). She and I were working on a case that was sizeable and required a substantial team. She pulled me aside for advice and to blow off some steam. “They just don’t understand the big picture here,” Claire yelled in a whisper. I asked quietly, “What happened?” Claire replied, “Anna thought I was moving forward with her idea—I’m not. She thinks I don’t value her ideas now. This isn’t true—I think she’s very bright. I just went a different direction.” I told her, “Give me five

Making Your Expert More Memorable and Understandable Through Visuals

August 5th, 2017|

I remember when I made the transition from student to teacher how excited I was to have the opportunity to instruct students the way I thought they really wanted to be taught – by presenting interesting lectures from which they could learn. How did I know that students wanted to learn that way? Because that is how I liked to learn, and I figured everyone else was the same. After my first quarter, I mentioned to my wife-to-be the struggles I was having connecting with students. I told her my theory about how (I thought) students wanted to learn. Since

Foreign Policy and Jury Selection Strategy: Assessments of Juror Opinion Leadership

July 8th, 2017|

There is an ongoing debate about the priorities in current foreign policy between “Hard Power” leadership and “Soft Power” leadership. In simple terms, hard power leadership refers to things like military power and forward military projection to deter aggression, enhance readiness, etc. When one thinks of this, the lines are drawn most clearly back to the Pentagon. Soft power leadership refers to diplomacy, economic aid, and a line drawn more directly between other countries and the State Department. Both are a means of exerting influence on others in the global sphere. We think about these concepts every time we do

Giving Your Witness a Leg Up Before Stepping Into the Courtroom

June 3rd, 2017|

Originally pushed in the King County Bar Association Bar Bulletin, March 2017. Have you ever walked away from a meeting with a witness thinking, “She’s going to do just fine,” only to be dismayed when the person testifying is not the same person you prepped? Good witness preparation is more than sitting down and talking to the witness about their testimony. But too often witness preparation is just that – an attorney sitting across the table from a witness telling them about the case, their role in the story, and reviewing key documents. The trouble is that witnesses are often

“So, who wants to be the foreperson?”: Opinion leaders in jury deliberations

May 13th, 2017|

If the cast of Saved by the Bell had jury duty, Zach Morris (The Adult Years) would be a likely candidate for jury foreperson. Personable, popular, and persuasive, the other jurors would look to him for his opinions and interpretation of the case. If you’re not familiar with the show, Zach was the typical “popular guy” inserted into any television show. He wasn’t afraid to speak-up in class (even if he didn’t always have the right answer), he was confident, and he was charismatic. And although he wasn’t the brightest student at Bayside High, based on his personality, his career

Four Design Strategies to Bring Your Timeline to Life

April 15th, 2017|

Among the requests for demonstrative exhibits, timelines rank among the most frequent. This makes sense given that most of the stories attorneys tell are chronological. Timelines are a great tool for laying out the facts of a case in a linear fashion. But I see many missed opportunities when timelines are laid out in the typical fashion – a text event connected to a time bar with a line (called a “flag”). Often there are so many timeline entries that the landscape becomes overloaded with “flags” and the story gets lost. When creating a timeline, think about a design strategy

A Trial Consultant’s Experience with Jury Duty

April 1st, 2017|

Even though I spend a significant amount of time in a courtroom for my job as a trial consultant, it is rare that I have the opportunity to be on the other side of the equation and serve as a juror. I recently received a summons to appear for jury duty and I thought it would be interesting to share my perceptions from a seat in the jury pool. My first day started with a near disaster as I left my wallet at home and I had to run back to get it. Luckily, I still made it to the

“Alexa” Hears Everything and Jurors See Everything

March 18th, 2017|

Recently there was quite a stir over the possibility that Alexa, Amazon’s highly successful and useful home device, could be listening to everything everyone says (it’s too late, she has already heard what you have said), and that it could actually be used as evidence in a criminal trial. After all, “she” must be listening, since she is voice activated. This is an interesting realization. So, Alexa hears everything: she is always “aware.” It reminded me also that in a jury trial, a jury “sees” everything, is always looking, always assessing, always evaluating, and potentially judging what they see. Jurors certainly listen

Helping Jurors Avoid “Alternative Facts”

March 4th, 2017|

Kellyanne Conway has introduced the concept of “alternative facts” into the political discourse with her defense of President Trump’s Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s assertions about crowd size at the presidential inauguration. Of course, this isn’t the first time this concept has been present in political discussions; in fact, the sales of George Orwell’s 1984 have skyrocketed since the inauguration as Americans reflect on some of the literature that introduces concepts like this. Laura Dominic and Alexis Knutson recently wrote about the potential presence of “alternative facts” in trials. Although these “facts” might not be appropriate, I have seen the introduction