Research data, to include our past research and pioneer research, show jurors don’t simply deliberate based on facts and argument; jurors deliberate based on their perception of the facts and arguments. The juror’s belief system dictates the various ways that particular juror perceives facts and arguments.
Step 1: Understanding the ABCs
The juror’s belief system dictates the various ways that particular juror perceives facts and arguments.
In A. Ellis’ (1957) ABCs of emotion, A stands for the “activating event”, or any event that might happen in the environment.1 B refers to the individual’s “belief system”. All events are filtered through a set of beliefs and based upon those beliefs, the individual will have a resulting “consequent emotion.”
In the graphic above, the Activating Events are the Facts and Arguments used when presenting the case. The Juror Belief System is the filter through which the Facts and Arguments must pass. The Story refers to the way the juror uses their Belief System to organize the facts and evidence. Ultimately, the Story the juror tells themselves about the case is the entire basis on which they reach a verdict.
Questions for building juror profiles should be designed to identify those belief systems. Our aim is to identify jurors with belief systems which prevent a favorable or even fair hearing of our case.
Step 2: Building Juror Profiles
The ultimate goal is to build juror profiles by identifying juror beliefs, life experiences and demographics, then cross-referencing those profiles with the likelihood of reaching a favorable or unfavorable verdict.
This will be on both a generalized and individual-specific level. For either, we should adopt the system developed by David Ball (2003), and put it into practical survey format.3 We will achieve this by developing four main types of questions.
- Develop questions designed to present key evidence and themes for our narrative/case scenario.
- Develop questions designed to identify juror beliefs.
- Develop questions designed to identify juror life experiences.
- Develop questions designed to identify juror demographics.
Key Themes for Delivering Narrative and Case Scenario
Research indicates the narrative or case scenario should be broken down into a Primary Theme, with ideally no more than three Subthemes. The questions we create should be designed to reveal juror beliefs about our evidence and themes.
Identify Juror Belief Systems
Belief System is defined as the totality of an individual’s values, attitudes, and opinions. There are two ways to identify relevant juror beliefs.
Rational Approach vs. Empirical Approach.
The correct approach may very well be case-specific. But for best practices, we can draw some conclusions for general guidelines.
1. Ellis, A. (1957) How to live with a neurotic. Oxford, England: Crown Publishers.
2. The Psychology of Voir Dire, Matthew L. Ferrara, Ph.D. http://www.thejuryexpert.com/2010/11/the-psychology-of-voir-dire/
3. Ball, David (2003) Theater Tips and Strategies for Jury Trials – Third Edition. Notre Dame, Indiana: National Institute of Trial Advocacy.