Every year we identify the top 10 articles chosen by our readers as most interesting in the calendar year. This year these articles are our top ten. Have you missed any of them? This is your chance to catch up!
By Chris Dominic, Jeffrey Jarman and Jonathan Lytle of Tsongas Consulting
Some time ago, we (a group of jury consultants) were debating whether or not it increased a witness’s credibility to have the video camera used in the deposition aimed directly at the witness or to the side at an angle. After all, this was a question we got from clients from time to time. The argument for putting the camera directly on the witness was that the viewer got direct eye contact and the look and feel was similar to something you would see on a television news program. Newscasters look straight ahead and speak to their audience by looking directly at the camera. The concern about this strategy was that it seemed too intentional. The witness would appear to be an advocate, thus decreasing their credibility. The argument for putting the camera off to the side was that it appeared more natural, and thus, it would bolster the witness’s credibility. Unfortunately, the diagonal angle did not have the benefit of the perceived eye contact between the witness and the viewer. This left us wondering, where should the camera be positioned to maximize witness credibility in a videotaped deposition?
By Jill Leibold of Litigation Insights
As jury consultants, one of the questions we hear most often is, “What kinds of jurors do I want on my jury?” Related to that, we’re frequently asked, “Do I want men or women on my jury?” “Do you think older jurors will be better for me than younger jurors?” The better question to ask is: “Which jurors pose the greatest danger to my case?”
By Renée Lettow Lerner of George Washing University Law School
I was delighted to receive this invitation to write about the civil jury for the Jury Expert. We academics often are concerned about reaching a relevant audience—or, indeed, any audience at all. In this forum, I have no such worries. I am looking forward to comments from persons working in and with the civil litigation system as a career.
I will come to the point: The civil jury is dying, and should be abolished. I propose an alternative system of adjudication, one that draws on practices that have proven to be effective.
By Ken Broda-Bahm of Persuasion Strategies
We all have an image in our heads of the way we expect cases to end: passionate presentations, gripping witness testimony, then a tense wait followed by the dramatic verdict. In the great majority of cases, however, the dispute will end not in a courtroom but in a conference room. After some awkward moments and handshakes, it will settle. Despite this, however, we all know that there are many cases that should settle but don’t, and an even greater proportion of cases that only settle after far too much has been spent in time, patience, and money. Talking to the trial teams, it is clear that there is one common barrier to the timely settlement of those cases: the other side. Now, it may be that I’m just more likely to work for the side that is fair, reasonable, and realistic (and for any clients reading, let’s assume that is the case). Or it may be that there is a large class of cases where both sides are saying in effect, “Believe me, we would settle this case if we could – if the other side would just see reason.”
By Kevin Boully of Persuasion Strategies
In April of 2006, notable media mogul Hugh Hefner apologized to Jessica Alba for the unauthorized use of her photo, prompting the actress to halt pending legal action against Playboy magazine. Just a few years earlier a woman paralyzed in an accident associated with faulty tires on a well-known SUV settled her case for about one third of the $100 million she originally sought. The shift occurred after defense attorneys offered the woman a bedside apology. Similar examples in legal as well as popular news abound, and the legal community has taken notice. Yet, many remain skeptical of apology’s utility, partly because anecdotal evidence like the two stories above have been more available than sound research and evidence supporting apology’s effectiveness, particularly its effectiveness in trial. Can apology really improve trial outcomes?
Racial Disparities in Legal Outcomes: On Policing, Charging Decisions, and Criminal Trial Proceedings
By Sam Sommers and Satia Marotta of Tufts University
Early in the evening of February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin, an African American 17-year-old, was shot and killed in a gated community in Florida. The shooter, 28-year-old George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch coordinator, was taken into custody but soon released upon persuading police that he killed the teenager in self-defense. The details of the criminal investigation and trial that followed are well known; Martin’s death and Zimmerman’s ultimate acquittal dominated cable news television, print media, and the blogosphere throughout 2012 and the first half of 2013.
This article focuses on what behavioral science research can tell us about the general relationship between race1 and legal outcomes, and its potential policy implications. Specifically, we will consider three domains, reviewing the influence of race on (a) policing, (b) charging decisions, and© criminal trial outcomes. We open with the shooting of Trayvon Martin because the facts surrounding Martin’s violent death and its legal aftermath illustrate important questions for all three domains.
By Doug Keene and Rita Handrich of Keene Trial Consulting
We’ve written a lot about generations and how generations in the workforce create unique challenges for managers and organizations. Recently, we were asked to do some work on sorting out if (and how) the generations respond differently to fact patterns in litigation, And, as part of preparing for that research, we took a look at research published since we last wrote a literature review on generations at work. As we prepared for the mock trial research with mock jurors of varying generations, our client said, “50 year old GenXers?”.
By Geoffrey Munro of Towson University and Cynthia Munro of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
The terms “soft science” and “hard science” are commonly applied to different scientific disciplines, and scientists have investigated and theorized about features that apply when placing scientific disciplines on a soft-hard continuum (e.g., Simonton, 2004, 2006, 2009). In the minds of laypeople, however, the difference may lie in the more simple perceptions of different scientific disciplines. The very words themselves, “soft” and “hard”, may hint at different reputations. Soft sciences are fuzzy and less rigid, suggesting lower reliability, validity, and rigor than hard sciences possess.
By Aner Tal of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab
Imagine you’re a juror at a gruesome murder trial. Make it a particularly gruesome trial, the kind that makes it to the 9 o’clock news, just to raise the stakes of our hypothetical example. Yes, that might be unpleasant, but work with me here. In any case, imagine that over the past days you’ve seen compelling evidence for the horrors that occurred. The link between those and the man standing accused appear fairly incontestable. To make things worse, you don’t really like the way the guy looks. There’s just something about him that makes you uncomfortable, he feels like the sort of person who would be guilty.
By Richard Gabriel of Decision Analysis
Periodically over the years there have been calls to eliminate peremptory challenges, the challenges that attorneys use to strike jurors they believe will be unfavorable toward their cases. The main arguments given for removing the peremptory challenge are that the challenges can be used to discriminate against a particular protected class (e.g., minorities, women) or that they can unfairly stack a jury in favor of one side over the other.
The elimination of peremptory challenges would, in fact, harm the rights of the parties to obtain a fair and impartial jury and is a wrong-headed solution to a very real problem that does exist in today’s jury selections across the country.