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TJE_logoWe’ve written for The Jury Expert a fair amount. In case you don’t know, The Jury Expert is the online journal published by the American Society of Trial Consultants dedicated to the art and science of litigation advocacy. Our articles in The Jury Expert are focused on litigation advocacy and meant to help you do your job with the latest information available. The last time we updated you on the articles we’ve written for The Jury Expert was in July of 2012. Take a look at what we’ve done in the past couple of years.

Loyalty, Longevity and Leadership: A Multigenerational Workforce Update: Our most recent article was written as we prepared for a large CLE presentation on the multigenerational law office. Do you wonder how to maximize the contributions of Baby Boomers, Gen X’rs and Millennials? This paper is as up to date as you can get on multigenerational issues in the workplace. Here’s a preview: “As we prepared for the mock trial research with mock jurors of varying generations, our client said, “50 year old GenXers?”. It’s hard to believe GenXers are really that old, but do the math—time has continued its inexorable march. Do that math a few more times and you will see the oldest Millennials are in their early thirties and the oldest Boomers are turning 70! It is easy to lose track of the passage of time and many of us tend to retain our outdated impressions of younger generations frozen in time. But they are growing older (just like we are) and changing as they mature. It’s imperative that we all keep our internal stereotypes up-to-date with reality in order to not be left behind with an outdated vision of who will come to interviews or even serve on our juries”.

Book Review: Law and Neuroscience: A book review from Rita on a reference book and textbook covering the fast changing world of neurolaw. As a voracious reader and a veteran scourer of electronic databases, I often prepare myself to be disappointed when opening newly published professional books since they are almost always out of date by the time they are published. This one is different. When I read the quote below, I grinned and realized this volume would not simply summarize, but also inform readers and encourage the development of critical thinking through the relaying of case narratives and interpretation of research and law that is naturally engaging to those of us with an interest in the area.

“Even if fMRI could reliably diagnose psychopathy, it wouldn’t necessarily reduce a defendant’s culpability in the eyes of a judge or a jury. Ultimately, the law is based on an individual’s rational, intentional action, not brain anatomy or blood flow”, says Stephen Morse, professor of law and psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. “Brains don’t kill people. People kill people,” says Morse.

Demographic Roulette: What Was Once a Bad Idea Has Gotten Worse: We wrote this paper based on new survey data that said (to us) what we’ve been saying for years: “You can’t deselect (or select) jurors based on demographic information.” Here’s a peek: “Almost eighty years following Clarence Darrow’s distillation of how religion shapes jury behavior, the belief that demographics could be the holy grail for the selection of jurors persists. It is routine for our [attorney] clients to comment, in the midst of a mock juror deliberation, “Well, it looks like older women are good for us!” and for the associates to quickly add this to their notes for use in the upcoming jury selection. The lingering hope that demographics could predict a juror’s eventual vote represents a pesky and persistent belief. Too bad it’s rarely true.”

Book Review- Social Media as Evidence: Cases, Practice Pointers, and Techniques: Another book review from Rita—this one on social media issues. Here’s a little from the introduction: “The social media landscape shifts quickly and keeping up with changes in platforms, privacy settings, and case law is more than a full-time job. Websites used for juror research may be purchased by other websites and, suddenly, their results are identical. You can spend hours doing painstaking research and inadvertently “make contact” with a juror because you don’t understand how different social media websites notify users of who has looked at their social media profiles. You may think you are being very, very careful, and yet leave a trail behind you—sometimes called “cyber crumbs” or “electronic footprints” that can unintentionally identify you as having peered into the social media life of someone you (likely) do not know.”

The “Why” and “How” of Focus Group Research: Doug wrote this one for an issue of The Jury Expert prior to beginning to publish online. It’s been re-published as part of an issue on articles that stand the test of time. Here’s a sample: “Properly conducted focus groups are extremely useful in getting reactions to a wide array of aspects of the case. While it is not prudent to expect that the “verdict” of a small group research project will be repeated at trial, it is very likely that the same values, hot buttons, and sensibilities that engage the research group will resonate in the jury room”.

Intergenerational Law Offices, Intergenerational Juries: Values, Priorities, and Decision-Making: Another in the series of articles we’ve written on multigenerational issues—this one focused on the office and the courtroom. Here’s a sample of what you’ll find in this article: “The legal blawgosphere has been filled with anecdotal tales of what is termed “generational conflict” for years now. Based on conversations with our clients, contentious inter-generational interaction is not just out there “on the web”. It’s everywhere. We’ve written extensively on issues related to generations–both in the courtroom and in the office. As litigation consultants, we hear senior partners aiming sharp criticism toward both younger jurors and younger lawyers (especially new law school graduates), and we see the associates roll their eyes and grit their teeth at the disrespect they feel from some partners. The work ethic of the younger attorneys (judged as inadequate by older attorneys) is blamed for their trouble in finding jobs. “If they were not so lazy”, the opinion seems to go, and “if they did not want instant success, they wouldn’t have such a tough time finding work.” It is, in short, their own fault they are unemployed. They have bad values. Or so it is said by many of their elders. Especially the subgroup of employers, supervisors, and– occasionally– parents. But is that accurate? It turns out that it’s likely untrue.”

“Only the Guilty Would Confess to Crimes”: Understanding the Mystery of False Confessions. We wrote this paper as we researched the literature about false confessions in preparation for a case involving a man who spent 8 years on death row for a crime he had nothing to do with. This published about the time the documentary “Central Park Five”  came out, and it’s been consistently accessed by readers since then. Here’s an introductory view: “It is naturally hard to understand why anyone would confess to a crime they had not committed. Yet, in North America we can trace false confessions back to at least 1692 and the Salem Witch Trials where “large numbers of mostly women were tried for witchcraft on the basis of confessions extracted by torture and threats” (Kassin, 2010). More than 300 years later, people continue to falsely confess to crimes ranging from academic cheating to murder. But the mystery of why someone would falsely confess persists. Unlike the Salem Witch Trials, most false confessions today are provided under psychological duress, but without torture or threats of physical harm. Do the generally accepted modern police methods still produce false confessions, or does the responsibility for false confession fall entirely on the confessor? There is a tendency to believe “others” might well confess under duress–but most people think they, themselves, would never do such a thing (Horgan, Russano, Meissner & Evans, 2012). This belief illustrates the reality that most of us have no idea of what it feels like to undergo an interrogation. More than 80% of those taken into custody by the police waive their Miranda rights (Sangero & Halpert, 2011)”.

Book Review: Police Interrogations and False Confessions: Current Research, Practice, and Policy Recommendations: Another book review from Rita—this one reviewing false confessions research. Here’s some thoughts from early in the review: “This is a collection of chapters written by well-known scholars in the area of false confessions and police interrogations. A review of the Table of Contents shows a stimulatingly broad range of topics. You will find the expected reviews of research on police interrogations and false confessions and then everything from juvenile interrogations, the difference between false confessions and false guilty pleas (which takes you into the shadowy arena of plea bargains), chapters on recording the interrogation (one of which educates on camera angles that reduce observer bias), how to most effectively give the oral Miranda warning, the expert witness (including identification of the five most common challenges to expert testimony and suggestions for refuting those challenges), and a whole lot more.”

Hydraulic Fracking & The Environment: Juror Attitudes, Beliefs, and Priorities:  We were hired to work on fracking cases for both Plaintiffs and Defendants, and in preparing to address the complex and highly charged issues associated with fracking we discovered that information on attitudes toward fracking was hard to find for mere mortals. And what you did find was often driven by political agendas more than science. Here’s a description of what you’ll find in this paper: “In this paper we generally describe typical positions taken by both Plaintiffs and Defendants, but we will not attempt to weigh the scientific evidence that is typically presented in the toxic tort actions. Instead, we will focus attention on jurors, and the related concerns that litigants are going to face from jurors before the first word is spoken. Americans are consistently concerned about the environment, especially the environment of their own ‘backyard’. This concern is seen in surveys done at national, state, and local levels. As is typical in surveys, the closer the issue is to the respondent’s individual life circumstances, the more concern they express. “

Book Review: The Science of Attorney Advocacy: Rita wrote this book review in July, 2012. Here’s how the review starts: “This is an academic book written in a very accessible style with limited jargon and lots of information as to what advocacy lore is supported (and what is not supported) by the research literature. The book covers a wide variety of topics: attorney demeanor, attorney verbal communication as well as paralinguistic and kinesic communications (all are defined), the attorney-client relationship and attorney storytelling.”

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It makes sense. If someone is rude to you, you might become grumpy and be rude in response, or rude to those who cross your path in the wake of the mistreatment. You may think of this as a small issue but new research shows us that rude behaviors are actually harmful—and, in fact, as harmful as other negative but illegal behaviors such as harassment or discrimination. This is not really a new finding as it’s been around since the initial introduction to workplace incivility. Some would say that workplace rudeness and workplace incivility cause the “death of a thousand cuts” and we would not disagree. While not fatal in and of themselves, the cumulative effect results in much distress. And if distress isn’t enough to promote change, it also produces job dissatisfaction, decreased productivity, and employee turnover. It’s about feelings, and it’s about money.

Today’s researchers wanted to figure out if rudeness in the workplace was contagious—much like the common cold. So they conducted three separate studies to explore this question.

In Study 1, the participants were 90 graduate students (average age 25; 65% White and 62% male) enrolled in a 7-week negotiation course. Over the duration of the course, students met weekly and were paired with up to 16 different classmates to practice various negotiation exercises. Following each negotiation exercise, participants completed an online questionnaire about their experience with the fellow student.

The researchers found that when the participant felt they’d been treated rudely by a negotiation partner, their own behavior toward future negotiation partners deteriorated. In other words—the rudeness contagion can occur on the basis of a single encounter.

For Study 2, the researchers wanted to see if being treated rudely would result in what they refer to as “activation of the associative network” for rudeness. Participants were 47 undergraduates (average age 20.35; 57% female; 68% White, 16% Hispanic, 8% Asian, and 4% African-American) enrolled in a management course. Participants arrived at the experiment in groups of six and first completed a personality questionnaire. That really was just a way to kill time though as the researchers were really more interested in what would happen after the “rudeness manipulation”.

After the 6 participants had all completed the personality questionnaire, there was a knock at the door of the experiment room and someone arriving late. The investigator was either rude to the late arrival (“I don’t know how you expect to hold any sort of job in the real world with this type of behavior but it’s too late for you now”) or not rude (“Email me later and we’ll see if we can find another session to get you in”). Then the real experiment began: participants did word identification tasks where they were asked to identify the category for each word (i.e., a rude word, a noontide word, an aggressive word, or not a word at all).

Individuals who’d seen the experimenter behave rudely responded to categorize the rude words more quickly than individuals who’d seen the experimenter behave politely. The researchers say that in this sort of task, a faster response time to rudeness words only means the concept of rudeness was activated by the experimenter’s rude behavior.

In Study 3, 147 undergraduate students in a management course (age range from 18 to 54 with a median age of 20; 68.5% White, 6.8% African American, 13.7% Hispanic, 7.5% Asian, and 3.4% “other”) were asked to participate in a study involving rudeness in the workplace. Participants were divided into groups and first saw videos of either an employee acting rudely (or politely) to a fellow employee. In the second stage, they saw emails of a customer addressing an employee rudely (or neutrally, or aggressively). After they had seen the videos and emails, participants were asked to decide how to divide up a reward for participation between themselves and a customer who’d expressed concerns (rudely, neutrally, or aggressively).

The results were similar to Study 2. Participants who saw the rude employee were more likely to not share resources equally with the customer whose email they’d seen. In other words, rudeness not only is contagious but also results in negative behavior from the person who was rudely treated.

Overall, the researchers conclude that rudeness is indeed contagious and that the contagion can result from a single exposure. Further, the contagion is not just about being verbally rude but can result in rude behaviors as well. The researchers recommend that workplaces pay attention to the “impact of low-intensity negative behaviors” like rudeness (or incivility). They believe that if these low-impact behaviors (e.g., rudeness and incivility) are not curtailed in the workplace, they will spiral into “higher-impact behaviors” with negative consequences (although employees may not understand the source of their rude behavior and may be unable to stop themselves from passing it on). The implication of this is that it can create a cascade of negative behavior, and result in a negative work culture that undermines job satisfaction and cooperation.

It’s an interesting study when considering the current-day law firm (or any organizational setting). While there are laws against harassment and discrimination, there are no laws against being rude or uncivil and many organizations simply tolerate rude behavior with a shrug of “that is just how that person behaves”. Yet, this research says that allowing rude behavior to remain in your workplace heightens the probability that you will see rude and otherwise inappropriate behaviors escalate until they potentially reach legal liability level. Unlike ten years ago, we now have tools to teach workplace managers so a workplace absent-rudeness can be achieved. It’s a worthwhile goal. For both worker happiness and the bottom line.

Foulk, T., Woolum, A., & Erez, A. (2015). Catching Rudeness Is Like Catching a Cold: The Contagion Effects of Low-Intensity Negative Behaviors. Journal of Applied Psychology DOI: 10.1037/apl0000037

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A new issue of The Jury Expert 

Monday, June 29, 2015
posted by Rita Handrich

TJE_logoWe try to post the Table of Contents for new issues of The Jury Expert here when it publishes and there is a new issue up now. Here’s what you’ll see if you visit.

Does Deposition Video Camera Angle Affect Witness Credibility?

by Chris Dominic, Jeffrey Jarman, and Jonathan Lytle–all of Tsongas Consulting. Many of us have had spirited discussions about how the angle of the camera in deposition affects the impression of witness credibility. We all have strong ideas and sound reasons behind those ideas. These authors had the same sort of discussions but actually did research on it so you could benefit from this knowledge as well.

Looks Like Science, Must be True! Graphs and the Halo of Scientific Truth

by Aner Tal from Cornell with responses from visual evidence specialists Jason Barnes and Karyn Taylor. Ever wonder just how much difference there is in how persuasive charts and graphs are in the courtroom? This researcher looked at whether a simple (very simple) graph with no bells and whistles would be more persuasive to triers of fact. You will find the results odd and somewhat unsettling. Jason Barnes and Karyn Taylor respond with their perspective on making visual evidence compelling.

Jury Instructions: Work In Progress

by Steven Perkel and Benjamin Perkel, both of Perkel and Associates. The question of plain language jury instructions has been around for a while but we wanted to bring you the most recent findings and thoughts on making jury instructions easier for jurors to understand and interpret.

“Soft” vs. “Hard” Psychological Science in the Courtroom

The terms “soft science” and “hard science” are commonly applied to different scientific disciplines, and scientists have investigated and theorized about features that apply when placing scientific disciplines on a soft-hard continuum. In the minds of laypeople, however, the difference may lie in the more simple perceptions of different scientific disciplines. The very words themselves, “soft” and “hard”, may hint at different reputations. Soft sciences are fuzzy and less rigid, suggesting lower reliability, validity, and rigor than hard sciences possess.

Favorite Thing: The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues

Here’s another favorite thing and this one is all about research being done (both brain and biological) that touches on ethical issues we need to understand.

Using The Other Side’s Strikes: Regulating The Information Flow To Steer Your Opponent In Voir Dire

by Roy Futterman of DOAR. Jury selection is a strategic activity that requires you to imagine how the other side will react. This author suggests you take that imagination a step further by behaving strategically to get opposing counsel to strike jurors you want them to strike–effectively giving you twice the number of strikes when you are successful. How could you not read this one?!

Loyalty, Longevity and Leadership: A Multigenerational Workforce Update

by Doug Keene and Rita Handrich, both of Keene Trial Consulting. Recently we were asked to conduct research on whether jurors of different generations responded to case themes differently. In preparation for this, we updated the generational research completed in the past few years. This article summarizes what we learned about the “real” (as opposed to anecdotal) differences between generations and how you can use a sensible approach to managing your own multigenerational office.

Top 10 Most Widely Read Jury Expert Articles Since 2011! 

Every year we have been giving you a list of the top ten articles on The Jury Expert’s website for the past year. We thought we would also show you our top ten most highly trafficked articles since we began to publish online. It’s an interesting list with some of what readers say is our best work. Don’t miss it!

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multigenerational-householdsWe’ve done a lot of literature review on generations and written papers summarized here and published in The Jury Expert. And it’s time for a new paper! Recently, we were asked to do some work on sorting out if (and how) the generations respond differently to fact patterns in litigation, And, as part of preparing for that research, we took a look at research published since we last wrote a literature review on generations at work. The article described here is the result of that pre-project preparation.

As we prepared for the mock trial research with mock jurors of varying generations, our client said, “50 year old GenXers?”.It’s hard to believe GenXers are really that old, but do the math—time has continued its inexorable march. Do that math a few more times and you will see the oldest Millennials are in their early thirties and the oldest Boomers are turning 70! It is easy to lose track of the passage of time and many of us tend to retain our outdated impressions of younger generations frozen in time. But they are growing older (just like we are) and changing as they mature. It’s imperative that we all keep our internal stereotypes up-to-date with reality in order to not be left behind with an outdated vision of who will come to interviews or even serve on our juries.

We wrote this paper for law firms trying to sort out management of the multigenerational workplace. There is fascinating research being done in this area and much of it can be translated into clear and behavioral steps to be taught to your managers and employees in general. This article discusses some recently found “real differences” between the three generations in the workplace (i.e., Boomer, GenXer, Millennial) identified in large sample size and global studies of individuals. If you enjoy learning about the latest research on generations and want to know more about making your workplace function more efficiently and respectfully—we hope you’ll read our latest article Loyalty, Longevity and Leadership in The Jury Expert.

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taylor swift on the RR tracksI’ve always liked Adam Benforado. He is one of the original contributors to Situationist blog (back when students didn’t write it) and wrote one of the funniest posts we’ve ever seen on that blog. But that was in 2011 when Adam was still an assistant professor. More recently he appears to no longer be as quirky and amusing. He does, however, have tenure now (congratulations) and is publishing a new book titled Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice.

I have not read Adam’s book. I have only read reviews of it and many of them are good although the book has not yet been released. The book was brought to my attention by trial consultants who saw early reviews and were disturbed by it. It was hard for me to believe that such a champion of the intersection between psychology and the law would trash the trial consulting profession as a whole with only one unattributed quote from a trial consultant who apparently speaks (in Benforado’s mind) for the profession. So I went to the Amazon webpage of the book which allowed me to peer at the book’s index and then review the pages about trial consulting (pages 249-256). Oh, Adam. I am so disappointed.

Here is the unattributed quote from “a trial consultant” that seems to be the impetus for Benforado’s trashing of the profession.

As one litigation consultant explained, “Basically, jury consulting is applied psychology… We’ll read studies from the Journal of Applied Psychology or Law and Human Behavior. We are practitioners but pretty much everyone here could flip and become an academic.”

First of all, if this is a legitimate quote, let us apologize now for this trial consultant who obviously did not read our blog posts on how to avoid saying stupid things to the media or the other dated but also misinformed book on how trial consulting is harming litigation advocacy and the pursuit of justice. I do not know any trial consultants who would say something like the quote above. There are very, very different skill sets involved in being a practitioner versus being an academic. Most of the trial consultants who know enough to cite the journals in that quote, also know enough to not say the last sentence because it smacks of narcissism and is untrue (“pretty much everyone here could flip and become an academic”). So, we apologize for the content of that quote, and think that if Adam Benforado really got a trial consultant to say something like that, his trial consultant source was not one we’d like to have representing us as a profession.

On the other hand, the journals identified by this anonymous consultant as ones “we” all read—are not the true “favorites” of those among us who actually read academic journals. So it all seems odd and a little out of touch for a trial consultant to comment along these lines. Further, if Adam (or anyone else) wants to understand the values and beliefs of any group, they can’t possibly do it by talking to any single person. Why Adam would imagine that this quote reflects anything about trial consulting (rather than simply being a dumb statement by a single person) diminishes the value of other, more worthwhile views Benforado might have to share.

Were I to explain trial consulting along similar lines as the quote Benforado uses to introduce his critique of the profession, I would say something like this:

From my perspective, trial consulting is applied social psychology. Some of us read academic research published in academic journals like the Journal of Applied Social Psychology or the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, among others, and apply those research findings to understanding juror reactions to case narrative. We do small group research often referred to as pretrial research that is very different from the laboratory research of academicians. Our goal is to uncover bias that results in prejudging of facts and witnesses, and guide the trial team toward themes and presentations strategies that avoids those bias pitfalls.

What Benforado says is that trial consulting began from a noble search for justice and has just boiled down to a desire to make money. It isn’t the consultant’s fault, says Benforado, since they are in a situation where ethics and ideas about what is right and wrong are just never considered. Since the reality of the trial consultant’s ethical compass is skewed by the environment—bad things happen. It is the logic of a true situationist and that again, strikes a false chord. And it is uninformed. Trial consultants— at least the members of the American Society of Trial Consultants— conduct themselves with standards of practice and ethical considerations well in hand. Advocacy is involved, but it is not any more skewed for trial consultants than it is for attorneys. Care and thoughtfulness are required. And most conduct themselves with very high standards.

I have been a trial consultant since the late 1990s and am a past President of the American Society of Trial Consultants. Rita joined the practice in 2000 and has been Editor of The Jury Expert since May, 2008. We’ve had, over the years, ample opportunity to observe the work of other trial consultants, to read the reports and recommendations of other consultants, to weigh in on ethical and organizational dilemmas with our colleagues, and to have numerous formal and informal interactions with our trial consultant colleagues over the past fifteen to twenty years.

Are there people who call themselves trial consultants with whom we would not affiliate professionally? Yes.

Are the professional motivations of the trial consultant revolving entirely around profit? No. We like to be paid for our work (apart from pro bono), but that doesn’t reflect a compromising of ethics. There is a true sense among the large majority of trial consultants of being “justice junkies”.

Do most of us think we can “flip and become academics”? No. While many trial consultants are academics of one kind or another (including tenured professors) most trial consultants don’t want to take that career path. In truth, we don’t want to teach and do laboratory research, or suffer the pressures to publish that can sometimes lead academics to undisciplined characterizations. And we don’t really read those journals to learn about applied social psychology research. The most useful sources of information for trial consultants are elsewhere.

We’ve been at this a long time. And working to improve litigation advocacy through the ethical and professional practice of trial consulting is still the best job we’ve ever had. We love to read research. We love to apply it to real life situations and we love to apply it to our litigation cases. That’s what this blog is all about. Our hope is that academics would appreciate our use of their findings. We know our clients do (and so do the readers of this blog).

So here’s a message to Adam Benforado, and those who are tempted to agree with him. You can fix this. Talk to real trial consultants rather than anonymous ones. Don’t criticize a profession based on a random, anonymous wisecrack. That is silly, wrong and unkind. You can look at what’s here now and who’s here now, rather than relying on an ill-informed and anonymous consultant who speaks about the rest of us inaccurately. This is still a new profession. But we don’t see ourselves and our trusted colleagues as causing unfairness in the justice system. We see ourselves as evening the playing field. And by so doing, we continue to apply the same values relied upon by those who founded the profession.

Benforado, A. 2015 Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice. Crown Publishing (June, 16, 2015)

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