Maybe it wasn’t really purple, more like lavender. The polo style shirts by 2 male senior citizens on one of our mock jury panels were very similar. I wasn’t present to witness the events first hand, but I have seen the video of the deliberations many times. The venue was a community where many senior citizens have retired. Despite their mutual appreciation of lavender, these 2 gents nearly came to blows with one of the two mock jurors aggressively castigating the other mock juror in offensive terms. Melissa and our research assistant had to intervene to cool the situation down and remind everyone of the need for civility. The situation did not deteriorate further, fortunately. And, the mock jury group was able to reach a decision that allowed us, and our clients, to learn from the session. The lessons of the day were beyond the case specific results. An important lesson, or hopefully a reminder, was that just because there are outward appearing similarities in people, each person is an individual. Assuming otherwise is dangerous. One of these men in lavender was very conservative, a defense oriented juror. The other man was much more plaintiff oriented. While other things were known about the two individuals, we’ve long reflected on how dramatic their differences were. They were both “old white men” wearing lavender/purple. But that was it. The experience now serves as a reminder that what you can see on the outside is not indicative of what is on the inside, in the minds and hearts of potential jurors. This event became a lesson used in one of Magnus’/Melissa’s Continuing Legal Education (CLE) programs, “Jurors say the Darndest Things.” In addition to occasional live presentations, the CLE program is available at www.magnusce.com.
I know several people who adore the color purple (I am not among them). It is rare, however, to see 2 male senior citizens wearing purple clothing in the same room. In fact, the mock jury David is referring to is the only time I have ever seen 2 men of any age wearing purple at the same time. Many attorneys try to develop shortcuts in determining personality traits that will aid them in selecting jurors who will be favorably predisposed toward their side of the case, as well as de-selecting those who will be unfavorably predisposed. Prior posts have discussed these misguided attempts to “pigeon hole” people into neat groups that can be understood with little cognitive effort. In the present example, what would an attorney do when faced with 2 gray haired white men in their 70s, both of whom were wearing a purple shirt? Would stereotypes of purple shirt wearers prevail over more common stereotypes about older people, white people, men, or residents of a conservative retirement location? Hmmm… As funny as the situation now seems, when it was unfolding, it was anything but funny. Having to break up a fight between mock jurors is, fortunately, rare, but witnessing a fight between 2 purple wearing old guys was surreal. One of them was extremely plaintiff oriented, wanting to compensate the plaintiffs with multi millions of dollars, and the other man was just the opposite, defense prone and reluctant to award anything to the family of someone who died in a horrific accident. But, as far as knowing any characteristics of fans of the color purple to aid in making a decision in jury selection, who knows? As Chuck Berry once sang, “It goes to show you never can tell.”