This is the fifth post in my blog series: Personal Injury Claim Value: Key Variables. This fourth post addresses injury value key variable #5: Juror Bias.
Every human has his or her preferences—some a held at the conscious level, some buried unconsciously. Jurors are affected by current events, personal experience and experiences of family members and friends. During jury selection, it’s the lawyer’s job to ferret out juror bias then strike those jurors who could unfairly prejudice the client the represents.
5. Juror Bias
– When the case is tried impacts jurors
In the 1990s the stock market soared. It seemed everyone had a nice car, a house and an expanding savings. Wealthy, healthy and happy jurors are in a better mood and more generous.
That all changed around 2008 with the implosion of the financial markets. Suddenly, houses were underwater, savings evaporated and jobs were lost. About that same time, more and more wounded soldiers returned from Afghanistan and Iraq. Jurors under financial, social or physical stress are generally less generous.
Times change. An effective trial attorney adapts strategy to changing circumstances, events and attitudes and their probable impact on the minds deciding a particular case.
– Each potential juror’s attitudes & perceptions relating to this case
During jury selection, I’m upfront with the jury. “Everyone has preferences and, biases.” I use a pie contest example. To illustrate bias I pose the following:
“If you were the judge of a pie contest but hate all, apple pies, as a matter of fairness you would need to reveal dislike for apple pies. Otherwise, it would not be fair to all the apple pie bakers in the contest. Right?”
In this way, I introduce the concept of juror bias to the jury in a non-threatening manner. Along the way I positively recognize those jurors who are honest about his or her bias. Each time I do, more potential jurors come clean about prejudices that could hurt my client’s case. A potential juror’s admission of bias concerning issues central to the case at hand is grounds for preventing the potential juror from deciding that case. It’s nearly impossible to eliminate all unfavorable bias. Trial techniques like the one described above (which I learned from trial guru Keith Mitnick) helps me get the best possible jury for my client.