By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
Think assessments during trial are focused narrowly on the evidence and the instructions? Think again: Jurors base case evaluations on a broader spectrum that includes reactions to the parties, their preparation, and the overall process. Litigators with much in the way of trial experience probably already know that. But a survey conducted by a retired Minnesota trial judge and covered in a recent Lawyerist article, raises the intriguing possibility that this broad-spectrum assessment applies more to defendants than to plaintiffs. The research, originally published in Bench & Bar of Minnesota, is based on data collected from the judge's own practice of administering surveys at the conclusion of every one of his jury trials. Pulling together data from ten years of these post-trial surveys -- 109 trials in all -- the article reports on their attitudes about attorney presentation and preparation.
The article is entitled "What Jurors Think About Attorneys" and it confirms much of what that title would suggest. But it also provides some very useful general reminders about the importance of factors that extend beyond the evidence, while also highlighting one very intriguing finding: a difference in how the respective sides are evaluated in trial. The judge's sample includes primarily criminal cases, but some civil cases as well, and groups prosecutors and civil plaintiffs together and compares their analysis to that of both civil and criminal defendants. This post takes a look at the data and what it says about how attorneys are practically evaluated by jurors.