By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
It is Halloween time again, and everyone who is a kid or young enough to party like a kid, is preparing their temporary identity for the night: a pirate, a witch, a vampire. This year, apparently, the trending looks are less traditional, including "Angry Birds" and costumes for this year's angriest bird of all, Big Bird, are flying off the shelves. Of course, the idea of temporary identity, of being something else for a short period of time, isn't limited to October 31st. It is something that sets the stage for human communication in every context. In different situations, we adopt different personas. There is overlap, of course, but when you think about it, there are probably some pretty clear distinctions between the "work-you," "friends-you," and "family-you."
There is also a "juror-you." That is, there are differences between the identity a juror assumes during trial and the identities that person may hold in any of their other life contexts. While we might think of attitudes and personalities as something fixed and immutable -- something that a person "has" -- it is more accurate to see them as highly changeable and sensitive to the situation -- something that a person "does," and does differently in different contexts. We've raised the issue previously of jurors being in different "decisional mindsets" at different stages in the trial. In this post, I'd like to take that point a little further and discuss ways to get jurors into a preferred role or identity during trial. I'll be choosing two early moments in trial, voir dire and opening statement, where a juror's understanding of her role can be critical, and providing suggested language on ways to encourage and adapt to a juror's temporary identity at that stage.