I caught a little more of the show Bull last night which hit a new height of exaggeration but there was a few parts that I saw that I think are a take away for trial lawyers. In this episode, the scene was a witness testifying and the camera focuses on the jurors. One juror at a time turns and looks at Dr. Bull and expresses their attitudes. One juror states, “I like this attorney, he does his homework.” Another expresses their attitude that, “He looks like my broker and I hate my broker.” While I can tell you first hand, understanding jurors’ attitudes is not as easy as they portray, I think it is an extremely valuable take away for trial lawyers. There are many approaches to picking juries, but understanding each person’s attitudes on issues around your case is important, even issues not related to your case have an impact on an individual’s motivation in making decisions.
Earlier in the show during voir dire, they talked about conducting a “motivation matrix” on a prospective juror and talked about his use of “strong language” in his online posts. This is another example for trial lawyers to remember while analyzing prospective and seated jurors. Understanding what motivates people's decisions and looking at the language they use is important in understanding what the underlying attitudes are that will motivate how they decide the issues in your case. Also, word choice helps demonstrate the strength of the attitudes that motivate their decisions.
I am going to tie this into today’s Law360 announcement of the settlement between U-Haul and PODS, a trial I worked for PODS on. While my story is not as dramatic as last night’s show, it is the closest I have ever come in my career to hearing jurors attitudes that were not spoken.
During the PODS v. U-Haul trial, the corporate representative testified live on the stand. He was the grandson of the founder, he was well educated, well spoken, a good dresser and in all honesty, a good looking man. How does all this play into our trial? We had an all female jury.
Throughout the course of his direct examination, the jurors were perched up in their chairs and attentively listened to his testimony. During cross-examination this all women jury sat back in their chairs and did not have the attentiveness they did during direct. This was my Bull moment. It was as if I could hear them saying, I like this guy, he is hot, he is smart and articulate. I knew we had a problem.
We overcame the jurors’ positive attitudes towards this corporate representative by shattering their image of him. How did we accomplish this? We had his videotaped deposition.