Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Invisible Culture Of The Jury

Jurors seek to find meaning in the facts. They accomplish this by sifting the facts through their invisible cultural grid.* Understanding the range of cultures assists in developing and presenting demonstrative evidence that relates to every member of the panel.
  • Tribal Jurors are traditionalists. They value the honor of being selected and will not act in any way that disgraces the jury. They are embarrassed when others are disrespectful or blasphemous.
  • Warrior Jurors prefer action to words. They see deliberations as a battle to be won or lost. They despise weakness and will follow only those perceived as stronger. They draw a “line in the sand” and will not compromise.
  • Dutiful Jurors are the ideal panel members. They seek to do what is right, they respect authority, they are willing to fulfill duty and responsibility, they will sacrifice for the good of others, they put principle before personal preference, and they are governed by clear thinking rather than emotion or impulse.
  • Maverick Jurors are not team players. They are more concerned about personal time and resources than about the legal process. They do not tolerate ineffectiveness or inefficiency (which is by nature part of the jury process) and feel suffocated when they believe there are too many rules and regulations.
  • Empathetic Jurors are a plaintiff’s dream team. They form an immediate resonance with anyone who has been victimized, and want to help the injured recover. They refuse to be a party to exploitive, uncaring, or insensitive behavior.

It is unlikely that a legal team will be able to predict the culture of individual jurors. Therefore, it is better to assume that the panel is composed of every type of juror. In preparing demonstrative evidence:

  1. Communicate the argument and the facts in ways that each culture appreciates.

  2. Affirm the values held by jurors—incorporating them into the demonstrative evidence.

  3. Eliminate all offensive vocabulary and images that would cause a juror to reject the argument by rejecting the presentation.

Most people are unaware of their personal culture and the role it plays in sorting information. Good communication seeks to convey meaning by the use of symbols which each viewer can appreciate.

*Distinct packets of culture are called memes. The concept was developed by Clare Graves to describe how cultural values reinforce one another.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Standards for Demonstrative Evidence

The Demonstrative Evidence Specialists Association (DESA) is a group of professionals that seek to hold one another to high standards of performance. The purposes of DESA include:
  • Promoting excellence in the preparation and presentation of demonstrative evidence.

  • Sharing ideals and raising industry standards.

At the annual meeting, members and guests examine current issues in demonstrative evidence and feature the work of talented specialists. More information about DESA can be found online at desa.org.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Origins of Demonstrative Evidence: Earl Rogers

Earl Rogers (1869–1922) “was the first trial lawyer to make extensive use of props.” (Time Magazine) It is reported that he used any other device that would communicate his goal.

In 1899, Rogers defended William Alford, who shot Jay E. Hunter, a prominent attorney. Alford testified that he shot upward at Hunter in self defense, when Hunter beat him to the ground with a cane; however, the coroner testified that the bullet passed downward through the body. Rogers had the deceased’s intestines brought into the court as an exhibit and an expert witness testified that the bullet had traveled upward through the body, just as Alford testified. (Snow)

In another case, witnesses claimed they had seen a crime through holes in a door. Rogers had the door brought into court and invited the judge and jury to try to see the defendant through the door. When they could not, the defendant was acquitted. (Time)

W.W. Robinson (Lawyers of Los Angeles) wrote that Rogers brought a gun into the court to challenge the credibility of a witness (Harry Johnson) who repeatedly testified that he was not afraid when a gun was pointed at him. During closing argument, Rogers pulled out a Colt .45 and aimed it at opposing counsel, causing them to take cover. “When the uproar was over, Rogers told the jury that what they had seen was the normal reaction of any person to a threat of death—thus completely discrediting Harry Johnson and winning the case.” (Grace)

Earl Rogers’ life was retold in the movie Final Verdict (1991)—based on a book with the same name that was written by his daughter, Adela Rogers St. John. Rogers was also personified as Perry Mason in the works of Erle Stanley Gardner. (The Perry Mason character was featured in more that 80 novels, movies, radio shows, and a popular television series.)

While many of Rogers’ “antics” would not be tolerated by today’s courts, it is clear that he helped to pave the way for the use of demonstrative evidence as a valid means of communicating to the court.

For more information:

Alfred Abraham Cohn and Joe Chisholm, Take the witness! New York, Frederick A. Stokes Co., 1934.

Roger M. Grace, “1902: Republican DA Rives Defies Wishes of GOP Governor,” Metropolitan News-Enterprise. January 9, 2007, Page 7.

Richard F. Snow, “Counsel for the Indefensible,” American Heritage Magazine. February/March 1987; Vol. 38, Issue 2.

Adela Rogers St. Johns, Final Verdict. DoubleDay, 1962.

“A Criminal's Best Friend,” Time Magazine. Nov. 2, 1962. A review of Adela Rogers St. Johns’ Final Verdict.

Mike Trope, Once Upon a Time in Los Angeles: The Trials of Earl Rogers. Spokane, WA : Arthur H. Clark, 2001.