The medical malpractice lawsuit in Oakland, CA. centered on a wife (plaintiff) who was suing a mental health facility for allowing her husband to come home for the holidays after being committed after a suicide attempt. The wife had visited the hospital late on a weekend night, when the primary care people were not there. She had insisted that her husband be allowed to go home with her and a newer resident physician complied. The next morning her husband was dead of a “self inflicted gunshot wound.” She sued the hospital for letting him out! My client was her attorney. I did not like this woman and I felt strongly that she was a dark force in this scenario. No one on the jury liked this woman either, but they awarded her a large settlement because one of the jurors held out for a mind numbing time over the fact that the attending physician failed to follow EXACT procedure and even completed the discharge form incorrectly. This was a gift for her attorneys and a nightmare for the hospital. The jury didn’t want to “reward her,” but “the rules were not followed.” If that sounds familiar, take a look at Casey Anthony, OJ, Phil Specter and Robert Blake.
Prior to any major trial, the commentators discuss what the attorneys are looking and “hoping” for in jury selection. Jury Consultants have become a sizable industry and are paid well to steer attorneys to use their limited challenges for best advantage. Obviously, in light of recent events, the selection process can only go so far.
While we get “rogue” jurors sometimes, who have their own motives for lying, or gaming the system, we have to assume that most jurors come to the trial as responsible, honest, thoughtful and dependable citizens. Even so, the strongest and best cases sometimes fail.
They fail because jurors are different. And they process information through very different filters. They access different areas in their brains to filter and “judge” the information, along with the perceptions of the attorneys, witnesses and perceived outcomes.
Any case can be broken down to its smallest pieces (and the smallest piece may be the one that hangs a jury). Those pieces of the case puzzle can be sorted into the four hooks that could hang the jury. Where such a piece is discovered, the attorney must make a presentation argument that “disarms” the potential obstacle or the verdict is doomed.
Jurors are not interchangeable legos; they hear and see the same facts and evidence, but they believe, want and value very different things that “color” that information. They have the same power to find or derail justice. Jurors are influenced by their primary behavioral traits; and they access different systems in their brains to filter information and outcomes.
Accountability – (Dominance as a primary trait) : Jurors that believe we have control over our actions and decisions and that we are accountable for the outcomes and results. They tend to hold others accountable.
Relationships – (Extroversion as a primary trait): Jurors who need and value relationships and put relationships first): They tend to support people who value people, who treat others well, and who motivate and inspire others and they tend to side with positive, upbeat people and against anti social or harmful people.
Fairness and Respect – (Patience as a primary trait): Jurors who seek fairness first, perhaps without defining it. If anything seems unfair (background, opportunities, mistreatment), they tend to overlook the outcomes or offense. They love second chances and have a high regard for “apologies.” They are uncomfortable “judging” others or making permanent decisions.
Perfection – (Conformity as a primary trait): Jurors who seek process and system over anything subjective. (Were the rules followed?) Ready to pounce on any error, oversight or mistake. Often think as”negative sorters” and try to find something wrong with the stronger argument, to appear as “expert” over attorneys they do not like. (Yes, but . . .)
In general, the accountable and relationship jurors tend to make better prosecution jurors, and the fairness and perfection jurors tend to tickle the fancy of the defense. These “viewpoints” need to be considered when outlining the pieces of the puzzle, the facts and outcomes of the case. Creating a grid that outlines the jurors’ potential filters over the essential (and non essential) facts of the case points out the possible stumbling blocks that will surface in the jury room when no one is looking.
There is more to justice than right or wrong.