“Jury Research: Preparing to Present Your Case to the Most Important People – The Jury”, by Nicholas Hariton, Managing Director and Counsel, and Cynthia Veneciano, Ph.D., Imaging Presentation Partners

31 Mar 2014 3:09 PM | Chere Estrin (Administrator)

Notwithstanding the vast array of technology which can be brought to bear during discovery and in the courtroom, at their core, trials are about people.   Jury Research is the best tool to use in preparing to present your case to the most important people - The Jury.

The goal of Jury Research is to learn: What will likely jurors think of this case?  What is important to their decision-making?  What is confusing to them?  What are they likely to over-look?  How will they react to my client?  What makes for the most persuasive presentation of the evidence?  These and other important questions can be answered with carefully designed and executed Jury Research.

Jury Research is conducted with mock jurors who are matched to the venue and eligible for jury service for the duration of trial.  The mock jurors are presented evidence through “Clo-Openings” that combine elements of Opening Statements and Closing Arguments.  Ideally the mock jurors are also shown edited video segments of testimony from key witnesses.  After the presentations, the mock jurors are instructed, charged to deliberate and asked to render a verdict.  After rending verdicts, the mock jurors are debriefed by a Consultant.  The proceeding is typically viewed from one-way mirrors or closed-circuit monitors.

When designing the Jury Research the general rule is more groups of mock jurors are better; however, there are diminishing returns after a certain point.  Three to four groups of deliberating mock jurors is often ideal.  If your budget allows, add days to your research design effort, rather than more groups.  A favorite research design among our clients is two days of research conducted over three days.  This design optimizes what is learned from Jury Research by allowing the Trial Team to test on Day 3 what was learned from Day 1 and revised on Day 2.

To maximize the knowledge gained from Jury Research, the Trial Team should consider stacking the deck against itself.  This advice may seem unappealing at first, but oftentimes losing at the mock trial best enables the Trial Team to win at the real trial.  Why?  Because more is learned by what went wrong than by what went right in this circumstance.  Testing a realistic scenario where all the motions in limine are not won and the opposition has shining moments will better enable the Trial Team to prepare a winning strategy.

Timing of the Jury Research efforts is an important question once the decision has been made to proceed.  Typically, Research is conducted six months to two weeks before the start of trial. Jury research undertaken six months before trial gives the Trial Team the opportunity to refine and develop themes that were tested or arose in the research; research conducted two weeks before trial provides an opportunity to rehearse and test the Opening.  After the first effort, there is time to reshape the focus of the case; after the second, the Opening can be amended to reflect the research. Both efforts allow time to address the appropriateness of settlement.  And in each case, most of the expenses of litigation have already been incurred.

Finally, utilizing a realistic verdict form, jury instructions and an adequate deliberation process will illustrate the best way to help a jury come to a favorable decision.  Many a sympathetic plaintiff has been sent home by real juries with zero dollars because the jury instructions and/or the verdict form constrained diligent jurors from doing what they felt was right.  Always test the jury instructions and the verdict form!

Effective research can make or save a client millions of dollars.  Jury Research provides a proven and cost-effective way of keeping the people you need to persuade in mind when preparing for trial.

Authored by Nicholas Hariton, Managing Director and Counsel, and Cynthia Veneciano, Ph.D., Imaging Presentation Partners 

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