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In voir dire and jury selection, seemingly small differences can help you make decisions that are good for your case facts. Recently, the Pew Research Center put out a survey showing that gun owners who are also NRA members have a “unique set of views and experiences”. Pew says something we love—and that we’ve said for decades—demographics don’t really help to choose a jury.

“While the demographic profile of NRA members is similar to that of other gun owners, their political views, the way they use their firearms, and their attitudes about gun policy differ significantly from gun owners who are not members of the organization”.

So what are the ways in which NRA gun owners appear to differ and that you can perhaps use to winnow down to the values and beliefs and attitudes that potentially make a difference? Read on.

NRA members skew more heavily to the political right than other gun owners.

Gun owners who belong to the NRA own more guns (the report says five more) than those who do not belong to the NRA (the report says perhaps just one).

NRA members are more likely to carry a gun with them outside their house all or most of the time.

Nearly half of NRA members say owning a gun is “very important” to their overall identity while only 20% of non-NRA-members say the same.

NRA members are more likely to say that owning a gun is essential to their personal freedom (92%) than non-NRA members (70%).

NRA members are more likely to contact a public official about a gun policy (46%) than are non-NRA members (15%).

The full report explores the political affiliations of NRA members and non-members and looks into some of the differences between and within the political groups of NRA members and non-members. Depending on your case facts, some of these differences may be useful to you in voir dire. Regardless, if your case facts involve guns—this is a must read for trial.

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Recently we saw the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia (1967) which ruled marriage across racial lines was legal throughout the US. In honor of this milestone, Pew Research Center has released a series of articles examining intermarriage in the US. We think it a good use of blog space to update you on the frequency of intermarriage in this country (which is rising—just like the US population is becoming increasingly racially diverse).

Less than a year ago (September 2016) , we posted on those who find interracial marriage “icky” so here are some prevalence numbers on intermarriage in the US. This posts reviews just a few of the pieces of information Pew shares across four different articles:

Intermarriage: 

10% of married Americans in 2015 had a spouse of a different race or ethnicity. Pew says that translates into 11M intermarried people in the US.

Since 1980, the percentage of Blacks who married someone of a different race or ethnicity has tripled (from 5% to 18%).

Whites have also experienced a dramatic increase in intermarriage since 1980 (from 4% to 11%) but they remain the least likely of all major racial and ethnic groups to marry someone of a different race or ethnicity.

Asian (29%) and Hispanic (27%) newlyweds are the two most likely groups to intermarry. Of those newlyweds who were also born in the US, the percentages are even high among Hispanics (39%) and Asians (46%).

Male Black newlyweds (24%) are more likely than female Black newlyweds (12%) to intermarry. The opposite gender patter is true for Asian newlyweds with 36% of Asian women intermarrying compared with 21% of Asian male newlyweds. (Pew says the gender comparisons among White and Hispanic newlyweds who intermarry are roughly similar.)

As the prevalence of intermarriage increasing, American attitudes toward intermarriage have also become more accepting. In the past 7 years, says Pew, the number of Americans saying marrying someone of a different race is good for society has risen from 24% to 39%. Similarly, opposition to intermarriage is undergoing an even more dramatic decline according to Pew—although there is a sharp partisan divide in attitudes toward intermarriage. (Democrats and Independents leaning Democrat (49%) say intermarriage is a good thing for our society but only 28% of Republicans and Independents leaning Republican agree.)

Intermarriage also varies by education with 46% of Hispanic newlyweds with a college degree intermarrying (as compared to 16% with a high school diploma or less). Among Black newlyweds with a college degree, 21% intermarry compared to those with some college (17%) or a high school diploma or less (15%).

Cohabitation with a partner of a different race or ethnicity

Cohabitation is on the rise (6%) in the US, while marriage is declining (although half of American adults are married). Cohabitants with a partner of a different race or ethnicity (18%) are similar in number to married people in the US (17%) in an intermarriage.

Cohabitation with someone of a different race or ethnicity also varies by age or generation. It is likely not surprising that Millennials and GenXers (about 20% each) have a higher rate of living with a partner of a different race or ethnicity than do Boomers (13%) and Silents (9%).

Cohabitation also varies by race and ethnicity (much like marriage) in the US. White adults are least likely to cohabit with a partner of a different race or ethnicity (12% compared with 11% of White newlyweds). Black cohabitants (20%) and Hispanic cohabitants (24%) also loosely mirror the intermarriage rates among Black (18%) and Hispanic (27%) newlyweds. Asian cohabitants with partners of a different race or ethnicity (46%)show a very different pattern from Asian newlyweds (29%).

Education level and cohabitation mirrors the numbers among newlyweds with a partner of a different race or ethnicity, with those with more education somewhat more likely to have a significant other of a different race or ethnicity.

Metropolitan area variations in intermarriage 

It is likely not surprising that intermarriage is more common in metropolitan areas (18% of newlyweds) than in rural areas (11%).

There is huge variation in metro areas with Honolulu, Hawaii (42%) having the highest share of intermarried newlyweds, compared to Las Vegas, Nevada and Santa Barbara, California coming in at a tie for second (at around 30%). These are all very racially and ethnically diverse areas and Pew thinks the diversity contributes to higher intermarriage rates.

Intermarriage is also typically more common among members of the military and thus metropolitan areas with military bases nearby often have higher rates of intermarriage.

On the low-end in terms of frequency, you will see only 3% of newlyweds intermarry in Jackson, Mississippi and Asheville, North Carolina. Pew also reports rates in Greenville, South Carolina and Birmingham, Alabama (each about 6%), Chattanooga, Tennessee (5%), and Youngstown, Ohio (4%). Pew introduces some interesting numbers on population diversity here. While Jackson and Birmingham have fairly diverse populations—Asheville and Youngstown do not.

Pew explains by citing the geographical disparity in the number of those who say more interracial marriage is bad for society. Unlike in the West (4%) and Northeast (5%)—there are higher numbers of people disapproving of intermarriage in the South (13%) and the MidWest (11%). If you are curious about specific numbers for various metropolitan areas, Pew has that too!

From a litigation advocacy perspective, if race or ethnicity is a factor in your case (either salient or not salient with non-salient being the most dangerous in terms of racial biases)—this is a good resource to use to draw initial hypotheses (for testing in pretrial research) regarding which jurors may be least biased against your case facts.

Before we had this kind of data, we would ask ourselves some simple questions that still appear to be worthwhile, based on the research.

Which jurors are likely to have had genuine relationships with people [ethnically] similar to my client?

Which jurors are likely to show more open-mindedness toward my client?

Which people are likely to be uncomfortable or opposed to intermarriage?

The research is largely what would have been predicted. If there is somehow an issue in your case about intermarriage, younger and better-educated people are more tolerant, while older and less well-educated are most opposed. Maybe it is simply a function of exposure and life experience, or discomfort with the pace of social change in those who may be more rooted in the past. In any case, intolerance has to be considered a factor.

May 18, 2017. Intermarriage across the US by metro area. http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/interactives/intermarriage-across-the-u-s-by-metro-area/

May 18, 2017. In US metro areas, huge variation in intermarriage rates. http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/interactives/intermarriage-across-the-u-s-by-metro-area/

May 18, 2017. Intermarriage in the U.S. 50 Years After Loving v. Virginia. http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2017/05/18/intermarriage-in-the-u-s-50-years-after-loving-v-virginia/

June 8, 2017. Among US cohabiters, 18% have a partner of a different race or ethnicity. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/06/08/among-u-s-cohabiters-18-have-a-partner-of-a-different-race-or-ethnicity/

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This is the sort of article that can either amuse or terrify you. It will amuse you if you are charmed by all the ways in which we see ourselves as superior to others. And it will terrify you if you do not want to know that you are always being observed closely by everyone around you. The article even starts off creepily:

“People-watching is an age-old pastime. People notice and observe the people around them all the time—on trains, at cafés, waiting in line, at cocktail parties and office meetings, and beyond. Pretty much anywhere there are other people, we spend a good deal of time watching them, wondering who they are, and assessing what they are like. But despite all the watching people do of others people rarely feel as if they, themselves, are being observed as they go about their daily lives. Indeed, people feel relatively invisible.

Of course it is impossible that people (on average) observe others more than they themselves are observed. Yet this is precisely what we suspect people believe. We call this bias the invisibility cloak illusion. This is an illusion that prevents you from realizing that, whether you are on a plane, in a restaurant, or at a rodeo, when you stop watching people and taking in the social scene—when you turn your attention to whatever else you are doing—the people around you are likely to raise their eyes from whatever they were doing and watch you.”

It is just spooky. We first saw this article over at the BPS Research Digest and they poked fun at it (just a little) and poked special fun at a “particularly cruel experiment” from the year 2000, involving being required to wear a Barry Manilow t-shirt—so we went to read the actual article. (We also have a blog post poking fun at a more recent Barry Manilow reference.) But we digress. Here is what the researchers did in today’s featured research.

First, the researchers verified the existence of the invisibility cloak illusion using online participants. Then, using Yale undergraduate students, they asked two participants of the same gender to sit in a waiting room prior to the experiment beginning. (We all know the experiment had already begun.) After seven minutes (precisely), the two participants were taken to separate rooms and told they were either the “observer” or the “target”. The observer wrote down everything they noticed about the target while the participant assigned to be the target wrote down everything they expected the observer would have noticed about them. Consistent with the invisibility cloak illusion, the observers produced more detailed notes about the target than the target predicted they would. But having read that old Barry Manilow experiment, our fearless researchers were not yet done.

Next, the researchers wanted to see if the spotlight effect (featured in the Barry Manilow t-shirt experiment where people required to wear the t-shirt felt exceptionally self-conscious) could co-exist with the invisibility cloak illusion. So they had half the target-participants wear a t-shirt with the Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar on it. (We think they should have used a Barry Manilow t-shirt instead but perhaps it was deemed by the Yale Human Subjects Review committee to be unreasonably cruel—hence the Escobar attire.) They repeated the waiting room experiment with the only difference being the drug lord t-shirt foisted on one of the participants. They were left in the waiting room together for five minutes and then sent to separate rooms to once again answer questions as to what they had observed or what they thought had been observed about them. Again, observers listed more behaviors and characteristics than the target thought they would have observed.

An addition to this follow-up experiment was that the observer was asked how much they thought about the target’s shirt as they observed the target prior to the experiment. And here is where it gets even creepier—the target-participants thought the observers would look at their shirt much more when they were wearing the Pablo Escobar shirt supplied by the experimenters rather than their own shirt. The observers, however, “observed, noticed, and thought about the targets’ shirts equally across conditions, regardless of whether the target was wearing a provided shirt”.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, this means it is particularly important that you and your client are always aware you are on-stage at all times when in the courtroom. The most important audience is, naturally, the jury, but this research would say everyone is watching you (although the researchers remind us frequently in the article that observers go to great pains to make it appear they are not watching you). Much like the inaccurate “better than average effect”, the invisibility cloak illusion tells us we are watched even as we watch (and apparently, we are judged even as we judge). Parties and witnesses sometimes believe they are only really being observed when they are giving testimony. Alas, it is so untrue.

The researchers sum it up this way:

“The invisibility cloak illusion consists in people believing they observe others more than others observe them. This belief appears to be pervasive and persistent, despite being logically impossible in the aggregate. It cannot be true that, on average, people are noticing and observing others more than they themselves are noticed and observed. Yet everyday people experience the compelling sensation that social observations flow predominantly in one direction.

People peer out at the social world and yet they feel relatively unseen, as if they are inconspicuous consumers of their social surroundings. However irresistible this sensation may be, it is not to be trusted. The sensation of observing others while remaining relatively unseen is a mirage, obscuring the reality that we are all equally exposed to one another.”

Obviously these researchers have no interest in comforting any of us and this research is not at all comforting. What it does do though is offer an uncomfortable reminder to us—we are never off stage and certainly never off stage in the courtroom or in professional activities. And neither is anyone else.

Boothby EJ, Clark MS, & Bargh JA (2017). The invisibility cloak illusion: People (incorrectly) believe they observe others more than others observe them. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 112 (4), 589-606 PMID: 27977221

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If you read this blog routinely, you know we like the work done by the Pew Research Center that keeps us abreast of how demographic patterns are changing. They’ve done it again with some trends for us to watch as 2017 marches forward. Here are some of the highlights from their report on how the world around us is changing.

Millennials are now the largest generation in the US. In 2016, according to this new report, there were about 79.8M Millennials (aged 18 to 35 in 2016) compared to about 74.1M Boomers (aged 52 to 70 in 2016). The Millennial population is expected to continue to grow until 2036 as a result of immigration.

Fewer of us are marrying although we are increasingly cohabiting and Pew discusses the “gray divorce” rate (divorces among those 50 and older) which has roughly doubled between 1990 and 2015.

More of us are living in multigenerational households (with two or more generations). This is due to economic changes as well as the changing racial and ethnic makeup of the country. Also, for the first time in 130 years, more Millennial-aged people are living with their parents than in any other living situation.

Women may never make up half of the US labor force although the gender pay gap has narrowed from women earning 64 cents for every dollar earned by men in 1980 to women earning 83 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2015.

Immigrants are responsible for overall workforce growth in the US. If not for immigrants, the average working age population in the US would decrease in size by 2035. They also report public opinion has turned more positive for immigrants this year. Similarly, since 1970, the increase in the annual number of US births is driven by immigrant women. Babies born to Muslim mothers will outnumber babies born to Christian mothers by 2035.

The US admitted 84,995 refugees in 2016, this is the most admitted since 1999. The graphic illustrating this post shows which states most refugees went to live in. About half (46%) the 2016 refugees were Muslim.

There is more information in the Pew report on demographic changes shaping our country and the world this year. Read it to keep yourself abreast of changing demographics in our country and around the world—as well as in all of our panels of prospective jurors.

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Here’s another this-and-that post documenting things you need to know but that we don’t want to do a whole post about–so you get a plethora of factoids that will entertain your family and entrance your co-workers. Or at least be sort of fun to read and (probably) as awe-inspiring as the stack of vegetables and fruit illustrating the post.

Just don’t do it: How bringing up politics ruins your workplace

You probably know this already since many people say their Facebook feeds are a toxic combination of politics and rage these days. So. Bringing up politics up at work is now officially a bad thing. We used to think that being exposed to varying ideas in the workplace broadened all our world views. But that was before this round of extreme political polarization and the strong feelings on both sides of the aisle. Here’s a survey from Wakefield Research and workplace consultants Betterworks that gives factual information on workplace conflict surrounding politics. While reading it won’t make you feel that much better, it will certainly tell you that your own workplace is not the only one so negatively charged (and give you some tips on dealing with employees obsessively checking social media).

Can you trick narcissists into actually feeling empathy?

Recent research says yes you can—simply by reminding them to take the other person’s perspective. In short, the researchers found that those high in narcissistic traits (but not meeting diagnostic criteria) were able to demonstrate perspective-taking but they had to be directed to do so. We have talked about this when it comes to implicit racial biases so the idea is not entirely new, but it is an interesting idea that narcissists would not even consider basic empathy (i.e., imagining the other person’s perspective) unless prompted to do so.

More on beards—this time in healthcare

Just like tattoos, we have covered beards a lot here and addressed issues related to beards like women’s preferences in long-term relationships, bearded men and sexism, extra punitiveness towards bearded men, bearded experts in East Texas, genetics and your bushy beard, and even identifying the elusive lumbersexual on your jury. There is so much debate and research about beards that we’ll give you that link again so you can catch up on all things beard in this blog. Mostly the only question never adequately addressed is “what is it about beards that mobilizes any sort of attitude at all?”

This particular controversy on beards has apparently been going on since the 1800s so it is a bit surprising we don’t have something on it already. Doctors. Should they have beards? Is it a hygiene issue? Should they be able to look older, wiser, and more knowledgeable than they may be chronologically by growing a beard? Scientific American blogs has an entry telling us (among other things) that “beards retained microorganisms and toxin despite washing with soap and water” and that bearded surgeons should “avoid wiggling the face mask” to prevent bacterial contamination during surgery. There are multiple other studies cited that come down on both sides of this hygiene debate. You will want to know about this one. Even though your life won’t be improved by the debate.

Earworms—they’re back!!!!

We’ve also blogged about earworms a number of times (hey—it’s an important topic!) Buzzfeed recently published a list of pop songs likely to get stuck in your head—which is what an earworm is—by definition. As a public service, here is one of our top choices for “most likely to give you an earworm” pop song.

And now that you have that list of songs to give you earworms—here’s recent research giving you a “cure” for the earworm. Chew some gum! The researchers say when you are chewing gum your brain is unable to form the associations essential for the creation and maintenance of an ear worm. Okay then. We can’t say if it’s true (and apparently it doesn’t work for everyone) but go buy some gum (it’s for science).

Throwing out advances in knowledge (is that what we want to do?)

We have lived in The Age of Reason (aka the Enlightenment) since emerging from the darkness and magical thinking of the Middle Ages. A new opinion piece from Daniel J. Levitin, an educator (published at the Daily Beast) asks us to consider whether we really want to live in an era where we avoid rational thought. It’s a brief and well-written piece that will give you talking points on why a return to the Middle Ages or even the 1950s is not a goal for which we should strive.

Beaman, CP, Powell, K, & Rapley, E (2015). Want to block eagworms from conscious awareness? Buy gum! The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology,, 68 (6), 1049-1057.

Hepper EG, Hart CM, & Sedikides C (2014). Moving Narcissus: Can Narcissists Be Empathic? Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 40 (9), 1079-1091 PMID: 24878930

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