During a recent mock jury session, one of the most outspoken mock jurors caught the attention of our client who was watching the proceedings remotely. This client, the general counsel of a large corporation, made a comment along the lines of “nothing about that juror’s profile would have made me think she would be good for us.” He had looked at a basic demographic profile of the woman we provided to him based on her survey answers and that information, along with his observations of her, led him to this comment. You see, despite whatever stereotypic impression he had of the woman, she was voting for his side in the case in a way he did not expect. The implication, of course, was that he would not have wanted her on the trial jury; he would have been wrong. Now he wanted to thank her for taking his side. While his comment was a bit more honest than those made by other clients, it is not uncommon for others to make comments along these lines. On some occasions, the discussion turns argumentative when the client’s stereotype bubble is burst. It is difficult for some people to admit their judgment was wrong and further, that demographics alone don’t matter. Smart clients learn from what they hear in a mock jury and apply it to their case, and, we hope, take it with them to all of their other cases. Jury research expands minds!
Profiling. Stereotypes. Bias. Prejudice. Most of us make “snap judgments” of others on a routine basis. Sometimes, we are right, but sometimes, we are wrong, wrong, wrong. I cannot count the number of times I have been asked, “Will men or women be better for us as jurors?”, leading me to respond, “Which men? What woman? What else can you tell me about these men and women?” Or, “I think these Millennial jurors are self centered and unlikely to award my client millions of dollars. Don’t you agree?”, leading me to exclaim, “No, I don’t agree that all Millennials, or all of whatever demographic category you are fixated on, are alike. It takes a lot more information than knowing someone’s age to predict whether they are going to award a lot of money or a little bit of money to your client.” One of the biggest thrills I have had recently is listening to a group of Magnus’ clients discussing the decision making propensities of a group of mock jurors. One of the clients has been working with Magnus since he first became an attorney and, as a result, he gets it. He really does! I listened to him explain to his co-counsel and our mutual client, the general counsel of a large corporation that, as much as we would like to believe stereotypes lead to good decisions about jurors, years of working with Dr. Pigott have taught him otherwise. I was as proud as I could be that I have been able to educate someone about the dangers and pitfalls arising from judging books by their covers. A word to the wise: When the accuracy of your judgment is important, obtain meaningful information, instead of using stereotypes and other forms of bias, to make your decision. It’s far better to be right than almost right!
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