13 Apr Juror Biases and Beliefs
One of the most fundamental yet overlooked strategies of cross-examinations or depositions is understanding who your audience is: The jury. The jury is always going to be predisposed to certain beliefs and biases and not catering to these beliefs may either make or break your case. Therefore it is critical to be structured in your oral examinations to neutralize such beliefs, and if possible, use to your advantage.
Studies have shown that the top five most shared biases and beliefs of an average jury are:
Jurors believe that everyone has a personal responsibility and must be held accountable to that. In order to convince your jury, you may strategize this by contrasting the plaintiff’s responsibility to the defendant’s lack of responsibility. For example, compare and contrast the defendant’s choices and what he ultimately decided to do. You could also provide an example of what a responsible person would do in a similar situation and compare that do what the defendant did.
Typically jurors in a courtroom come in with an anti-plaintiff attitude. This can be because of television commercials, articles advertising huge settlements, and articles about plaintiff’s abusing the legal system. Wherever this bias stems from, it is important to neutralize it in a deposition. One way would be make it harder for the jury to identify with the defendant. The more relatable you make the plaintiff, the more a juror will be able to see his perspective.
Jurors often are suspicious that a plaintiff is faking an injury or after the deep pockets of insurance companies. You can defeat this suspicion by proving to them that the case is not frivolous. Show the jury that this is the first case they have ever filed, or that their injury is not getting better, despite their efforts to get better. From a defendant’s standpoint, you can show the plaintiff has been in numerous cases before this or bring up testimony portraying the plaintiff is untrustworthy.
Many times a juror will empathize with the defendant. The juror may think he could easily be in the defendant’s shoes, in the same unlucky situation. If you want to neutralize this bias, you must again establish a connection between the plaintiff and the juror. You can do this by distancing the defendant’s actions with what a normal persons actions would be. For example, compare and contrast what a normal person would do in a situation and what the defendant did in that situation. This will ultimately taint the defendant’s character and therefore make him less relatable and less of a victim to the juror. Obviously if your position is proving that the defendant is a victim, play off of that bias and present examples that this defendant acted as a prudent and reasonable person would.
The last bias that a juror has will be that “stuff happens”. This is the juror who believes that it was essentially “God’s will” and no one is really at fault. If you want to diminish this bias, prove that the defendant made a deliberate choice and it was that choice that created the harm to the plaintiff.