11 February 2009

Jury Anxiety

From Matlock: 10 things which cause jury anxiety (and my comments):
They do not understand the information.
Yes, well, any of us who have tried a case in front of a jury know that this is a valid concern.
They suspect they are alone in not understanding the information.
Again, if you've ever tried a jury trial which has come up come up with an unexplainable verdict you know they are right to have this concern.
Information is presented too quickly.
This is often true. We lawyers, having seen a particular type of evidence a million times, and judges, who want to move a trial along, often move too quickly past something (like a record of prior conviction) which the jury has never seen before with only a cursory explanation of what it is.
Information is presented through only one communication channel.
Understandable, but not much that can be done about this. Evidence is supposed to come from one source and be tested by another, within rules as enforced by the judge. I really don't want a juror to be able to go to the internet and find that one website which claims all criminals are Martians and base his vote to convict on that.
The amount of information is overwhelming.
We've had 2 years to digest all the information in the murder case and we're still using notepads and/or computers to have outlines to keep us on track. Then we dump it all on the jurors in one week and maybe allow them to have a notepad. Can't understand in the least why they feel overwhelmed by that.
Multiple sources of different information are being presented simultaneously
I'm not sure I understand this one. I guess it refers to attorneys arguing different points during an objection.
There is too little information about the information.
Again, probably a side effect of lawyers knowing from long experience what a particular item of evidence means and only being allowed to present it rather than explain it at the time.
They do not know whether further information about the information will be presented.
That's a failure of the attorneys in their opening statement to explain the evidence they will be showing the jurors.
The information is contradictory to old information they had before hearing the new information.
Can't get around this. It's the entire point of having a jury trial.
They do not know whether they will need the information.
This is a failure on the part of our system to tell jurors what they should be looking for. We just do our best to keep them in the dark, shovel a bunch of facts at them, and then tell them which parts they should have been listening for.

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