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Why Jurors Often Fail to Understand What’s Important…Even When It’s Obvious

January 10th, 2018|

By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D. Before you read any further, watch the above 1 minute and 41 second video, which will provide incredible insights into your trial presentation strategy as discussed below. Did you pass or fail? As they tell you in the video, almost half of all of the people who watch this video (and have not seen it before) fail the test by not seeing the gorilla. Even more interesting, we learn that even those who have seen this kind of experiment before (and expect something odd to happen) failed to notice the second change, which was the

Repeating the Importance of Repeating

December 11th, 2017|

By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D. The value of repetition as a simple and practical strategy for persuasion at trial cannot be overstated. However, despite the fact that I repeatedly emphasize this point on repetition to clients at trial, the level of repetition is often insufficient. I have found that it is not uncommon for an attorney to believe that he or she is using repetitive language to make a point, but when reviewing transcripts, the use of this language is fairly limited. Saying something a couple of times over trial simply does not cut it. If a particular message is

Do You Know What Question Your Jurors are Really Answering in Deliberations?

December 4th, 2017|

By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D. In his 2011 book Thinking Fast and Slow, famed psychologist and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman wrote this in his effort to explain the essence of intuitive heuristics: “When faced with a difficult question, we often answer an easier one instead, usually without noticing the substitution.” While the fundamental concept in this quote is not particularly ground-breaking (at least in today’s world of psychological research), Kahneman’s phrasing eloquently hammers home a critical point for attorneys and how they think about their cases. To be clear, Kahneman’s book is not about juries or jury decision-making. It

Think of it as “Mock Deliberations??? Instead of a Mock Trial

November 27th, 2017|

By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D. I had a very interesting experience recently on a case in New York. While we had worked with the client before, we had never worked with this particular group of attorneys. The stakes were significant and there were ongoing discussions about a potential mock trial. These discussions created an interesting dynamic where the client wanted to do a mock trial, but the client’s attorneys did not support the idea and questioned the value of such a project. Notably, the client, who we had worked with several times in the past, had never conducted a mock

3 Ways Our Brains Are Changing With the Times

November 20th, 2017|

By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D. Without a doubt, we are living in unprecedented times. Whether it is the leader of the free world firing off daily rants on Twitter or the mere fact that smart-phones leave us plugged in 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, technology and social media have profoundly changed the way we experience the world. The psychological and sociological research is finally catching up, offering an interesting glimpse into how all of these changes are impacting our brains. Here are three ways in which technology and social media are impacting your jury pool. 1.

Would you strike Barack Obama from the jury panel?

November 8th, 2017|

Obama arrives. By Jill D. Schmid, Ph.D. Obama arrived this morning (11/8/17) at the Daly Center in Chicago for jury duty in Cook County, but he didn’t have to wait long to find out he had been dismissed. Guess the attorneys won’t have to decide if they would use one of their strikes on him. That, however, doesn’t make the question any less intriguing: Would you strike the former President? If so, why? Seems like as good a time as any for a quick recap on five dos and don’ts of jury selection. 1. DO have a plan. This plan

Defining Your Fundamental Goal in Voir Dire

March 27th, 2017|

By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D. It has been a busy few months of picking juries for our consultants at Sound Jury Consulting. I have picked three juries in the past three weeks alone and we seem to have had a record number of cases lately that have made it all the way to trial. This has led to a lot of opportunities to see how different attorneys approach voir dire. The different approaches fall generally into three categories: 1) Well-planned and thought-out; 2) Those with questionable goals; and 3) Those with no apparent purpose. It is difficult to understate the

Four Fundamental Misconceptions About Mock Trials

October 27th, 2016|

By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D. Mock trials are a popular tool for attorneys who want to learn how jurors will react to their cases. Mock trials have become so commonplace that some argue it is malpractice not to conduct one in a high-exposure matter. With the increased use of mock trials, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of misconceptions about the design and value of this type of jury research. Let’s take a look at four common misconceptions about mock trials. 1. The final outcome matters. I recently had a large corporate client tell me they wanted

5 Common Ways Attorneys Waste Precious Voir Dire Time

August 16th, 2016|

Common ways attorneys waste time in voir dire. By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D. Recently, I picked a jury in the Pacific Northwest where the judge provided the attorneys for each side limited time for attorney-conducted voir dire (20 minutes each). While the time allocations for voir dire vary from case to case and from judge to judge, most jury selections involve some sort of time limitations along these lines. In other words, in many case, attorneys probably need more time than they actually receive in order to conduct the kind of jury selection that they would prefer. This has important

Testimony and the Right Place for Righteous Indignation

July 14th, 2016|

By Jill D. Schmid, Ph.D. The other day I was watching FBI Director Comey’s testimony to Congress regarding the FBI’s Clinton email investigation and findings. It began as a test of my mental fortitude, but I found that I enjoyed watching how Comey handled the questions and delivered his responses. In particular, I admired the way he kept his composure while still being strong and, when necessary, a bit indignant. Comey wasn’t angry or rude. Instead, when needed, he used righteous indignation. A good example of this came when Comey was being “asked questions” by Florida Representative John Mica. Towards