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Dealing with Juror Fatigue in Zoom Trials

September 15th, 2020|

“Six months into the pandemic, trial-by-video-jury – at least in the civil context – is beginning to morph from experiment to expectation. And while lawyers aren’t totally sold on the concept, a growing chorus of judges is making it clear that it may be the only way to keep their dockets moving” (Law.com). Clearly, with the Coronavirus continuing to ravage the country, the need to explore and utilize other options for civil trials is necessary. And, while there have been several “successful” Zoom trials, there have also been dozens of legitimate concerns and questions raised about everything from how to

The Role of Defensive Attribution in Jury Verdicts in Traumatic Injury Cases

September 10th, 2020|

One of the first memorable studies that I read about jury psychology in graduate school was the 1997 study by Neil Feigenson and colleagues on the relationship between injury severity and blameworthiness. This was early in my graduate studies when I was focused on the effects of injury severity, particularly on attributions of fault. My operating theory at the time, which was also a commonly held belief in the field, was that jurors were more likely to blame the defendant as the severity of the injury to the plaintiff increased, regardless of the strength of the liability evidence against that

3 Key Strategy Insights from a Debate Coach

September 2nd, 2020|

By Scott Herndon, M.A. When I joined Sound Jury Consulting 5 years ago, I entered with a unique background – I am a college debate coach. College debate is a high-speed, research-oriented, game of words that operates a little like verbal chess. Teams present and apply arguments about complex public policy questions to persuade a judge they have the best idea, and thus win the debate. As I settled into my role with Sound Jury Consulting, I realized the skills I’d honed as a debate coach for two decades were immediately applicable to my work as a trial consultant. While

Rethinking Your Takeaways from Mock Trials and Focus Groups

August 27th, 2020|

By Jill D. Schmid, Ph.D. With every project, I’m reminded of the power of a mock trial to effectively and efficiently inform one’s litigation strategy. Too often I think attorneys and their clients view a mock trial from an “outcome” perspective only, or primarily – a “Will I win or lose?” and “If I lose how much will it cost my client?” standpoint. This is far too simplistic a way to view a mock trial and, most importantly, the goal of the mock trial is not to “win.” One “wins” by finding out how you lose and then doing what

Jury Selection During COVID: Tips for Creating Useful Supplemental Juror Questionnaires

August 6th, 2020|

By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D. This past week, King County Superior Courts in Seattle, Washington laid out their plans for the resumption of civil jury trials. In an effort to avoid having large groups of jurors in the same place, jury selection will be conducted mostly over Zoom, which is a fascinating development that should cause many to rethink their jury selection strategy. However, the court has also noted that it intends to rely on the expanded use of supplemental juror questionnaires, though the parameters will likely vary from case to case and judge to judge. We have seen a

The Myth of Juror Rehabilitation

July 29th, 2020|

By Jill D. Schmid, Ph.D. Protests, COVID, health care, stimulus package, Trump, news (fake or otherwise), monuments, and on and on and on. This country is more divided than ever on nearly every subject. A recent PEW research poll conducted between July 13-19 shows that one’s political leanings (e.g., their political opinions) are an important factor for determining their beliefs about the severity of COVID with 85% of those Democrat or leaning Democrat believing it is a major threat to the health of the public, versus only 46% for those Republican or leaning Republican believing it is a major threat.

Recognizing the Emotional Volatility of Your Jurors

July 23rd, 2020|

By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D. Yesterday, Seattle Public Schools announced that remote learning will continue indefinitely, meaning public school kids are not going back to school in the fall. A city-wide collective groan followed the announcement. While parents recognize the importance of protecting the health and safety of our community, they also recognize that it is incredibly difficult to have the kids at home every day while they are trying to work from home or manage other aspects of their lives. This is just one of the many tough realities that your jury pool is facing during the pandemic. Many

The Pandemic Highlights the Power of Personal Experience in Persuasion

July 16th, 2020|

By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D. “I don’t think it would make a difference at all. I’m not even convinced this whole coronavirus thing is real. I don’t know anyone who’s had it.” The irony is that Robert, the mock juror who made this statement during deliberations, was exactly the kind of person who should be most concerned about the virus. He checked off many of the high-risk categories for those most susceptible. Yet, despite daily news reports about death tolls and infection rates, and despite his unique vulnerabilities, he was suspicious that it might all just be some sort of

Research Shows COVID-Related Opinion Shifts in Nationwide Jury Pools

July 1st, 2020|

By Jill D. Schmid For the past couple of years, we’ve been conducting national surveys on a variety of subjects in order to find out what kinds of widely held beliefs jurors bring into the courtroom. This data has helped inform many litigation strategies, witness preparation efforts, and jury de-selection strategies. Recently, we put all the questions together, added COVID specific questions, and conducted our largest nationwide survey yet.  All of the data was collected in May 2020. The data not only tells us about how the jury pool will likely be different in the foreseeable future due to the

Understanding Heightened Juror Emotions During the Pandemic

June 16th, 2020|

By Scott Herndon, M.A. Traumatic national events, like the COVID-19 pandemic elicit a broad range of emotions in potential jurors. Jurors, like all of us, worry about the safety of our family and loved ones, keeping jobs, the state of the economy, or the stress of taking on new family and educational responsibilities. Recently, we have conducted some national survey research and the data demonstrates that the pandemic has heightened many latent juror attitudes about the government, corporations, and many other institutions and business. These stressors and biases combine to create a mix of emotions that potential jurors bring