Jury Science: Real or Just TV Drama?

October 20th, 2017 by Attorney Dan Carman

Criminal defendants may literally put their lives, their futures and the futures of their families in the hands of juries. Given the seriousness of the situation, it only makes sense for Central Kentucky attorneys to do all they legally and ethically can do to seat a jury that’s as sympathetic as possible to their client and to present their client’s side of the story in the most effective way to obtain a positive jury decision.

The CBS drama, Bull, is a fictional story of a trial consultant, one who helps an attorney select the most sympathetic jury possible and present the case in a way that has the best chance of winning over jury members. The Litigation Insights blog separates the facts of jury science from the fiction of the TV show. Here are some things you should keep in mind:

  • Trial consultants do use technology and databases to improve the presentation of the client’s case and collect data about possible jurors, but the space-age set up on the show is more science fiction than reality.
  • Consultants use internet searches and the attorneys’ questions to possible jury members (voir dire) to try to predict how a juror might decide a case, but no consultant can predict for sure how a juror will decide.
  • Consultants aren’t supposed to manipulate the jury, as the show suggests, but they try to prevent seating potential jurors who are less likely to see things the client’s way. This improves the chances of seating a jury that’s more receptive to their case and arguments.
  • Consultants look at jury dynamics when members are selected, trying to identify leaders. Because there are limits on the number of possible jurors who may be rejected (or stricken), a consultant may decide to keep a shy, unsure person even if at the outset they seem hostile to the client’s case; they may be easily persuaded, rather than being a leader who will influence others. If the potential jury member is confident, authoritative  and likable but seems antagonistic toward the client’s cause, a strike may be in order to keep them from swaying the other jurors.
  • Sometimes consultants can tell a lot about potential jurors by reading their social media posts. They might reveal that the person is vocal, has strong opinions and is likely to accept the defendant’s version of events, and their stubborn nature just might prevent the unanimous verdict required in criminal cases.
  • Mock juries are used by consultants to help the attorneys prepare for trial. In this “dry run,” the legal team can observe how effective their arguments are and gain insight on how to better communicate the facts of the case, developing a presentation and story line that is more likely to resonate with jurors. Jurors and trials are unpredictable, though, so the usefulness of a mock jury is limited.

Trial consultants can be useful, and we have used them when we think they can make a difference, but ultimately a trial’s outcome boils down to the evidence, the credibility of witnesses and an attorney’s ability to tell the defendant’s story in an effective way and shape the trial to the client’s benefit.

If you have been arrested in Central Kentucky or are being investigated for a possible criminal charge, call our office at (859) 685-1055 or use this online contact form so we can start the conversation about your situation, applicable criminal laws and the best ways to protect your liberty, legal rights and your family’s future.