Magnus Research Consultants recently worked in Miami, where we have worked numerous times throughout the decades we have been in business. Most of the time when we are conducting mock jury research, the research participants/mock jurors are respectful toward one another, the Magnus staff, and me. Once in a while, however, one or more of them will overstep the line of decency, which is a guarantee they will be sent home, immediately. On this day in Miami, one of the mock jurors, who had volunteered to be the jury foreperson, refused to follow the instructions he was given by one of Magnus’ Research Technicians. We have specific ways of conducting jury research, therefore, it is essential that our protocols are followed, however, this mock juror repeatedly informed everyone that he did not have to do what he was told and would, instead, do things however he pleased. I instructed my employee to, at first, gently remind the mock juror of what he needed to do and when that failed, I asked my employee to tell the errant mock juror that he was required to follow the rules of conduct that had been established. After being asked, then told, what to do, the mock juror, in a threatening tone, told my employee, “If this were a real jury, I would come over there and beat your …” At that point, my clients and I , who were watching and listening to everything on a closed circuit TV system, had seen and heard enough from this guy. I sprang to my feet, ran as fast as my high heels would allow me to run, and entered the room where the mock jurors were deliberating. After instructing my employee to turn off the video camera, I informed the man that he would be leaving, right now. He decided to challenge me by saying, “Oh, I was only kidding.” We had an unpleasant exchange until I finally persuaded him it was in his best interest to leave. The remaining mock jurors applauded as soon as the man left the room and thanked me for getting rid of this toxic individual. One of the older Hispanic men in the group shouted to me “I am impressed! You are so elegantly forceful!” to which I replied, “Thank you! That’s one of the nicest things anyone has ever said about me!” Elegantly forceful! I like the sound of that!
Elegantly forceful is a great description and a smart way of handling a difficult, tense situation, ESPECIALLY when all eyes are on you. When clients are involved, the stakes are much higher still. The way this mock juror was handled set the tone for the entire group. Yelling, screaming, cursing, as we’ve observed some trial consultants behave, are counterproductive as well as damaging to the research process. These actions are unprofessional and, if observed by a client, damaging to a working relationship. Yet, some people have out of control tempers or personalities. By being tough, but professional, the show can go on with minimal disruption. I did not witness the recent situation in Miami; my group behaved. But I’ll never forget a bad situation a few years ago with a disruptive juror who referred to one of our Research Technicians as “boy,” said as a part of this mock juror’s refusal to behave. The mock juror was very confrontational and abusive to all involved. Again, that was in one of Melissa’s groups, but I got a quick call on the walkie talkie to escort the bad juror out of the building. This situation was tense, but by not engaging in a confrontation, as the mock juror wanted, we were able to dismiss him without further incident: (facility security was notified to keep an eye out for any possible return by this jerk). Fortunately, these incidents are rare, but they happen because we have no way to know whether someone is on the precipice. Being prepared to respond professionally is critical to “not letting them see you sweat.”