Whether it’s the 2002 winner of the Super Bowl, the number of Academy Awards Meryl Streep has won or what poutine is, our smartphones have become the go-to tool to settle conversational debates or look up unknown terms. After all, easy access to knowledge is tempting – even when you know it might lead down a Wikipedia rabbithole or it might be a tad rude at the dinner table.
However, this same reflex can become a major issue in the courtroom when the Internet’s unlimited information is a lure for jurors wanting to know more about an issue. We in the legal profession know all the evidence during a trial is supposed to come from witnesses and exhibits, but jurors often don’t realize the reasons for telling them not to engage in outside research, or the ramifications if they find out something that could cause a mistrial.
In fact, an eye-opening 62 percent of respondents during one of our recent nationwide surveys said they would be inclined to do outside research about aspects of a case they want to understand better. Even more alarming – 18 percent said they would do this research even if a judge explicitly told them not to.
This desire to “know more” among today’s empowered jurors means educating them about the issues in your case is more important than ever. If you provide jurors an adequate base of knowledge with which to evaluate the case, they’ll be less likely to conduct their own discovery during trial. We also believe this is one of the best reasons to do focus group research before trial – by better understanding what issues jurors find confusing and which require clarification, you can anticipate their needs and present your case as clearly as possible.
As we advise our clients all the time, it’s likely you know your case too well. Jurors don’t have that same context, and if they are not provided some of what they consider the “basics” in the courtroom, they may look elsewhere for it. By defining terms in the way that is most helpful to your trial story, you’ll gain an advantage and ideally circumvent the juror temptation to Google that information instead.
If you’d like to discuss potential juror education and misconception issues for an upcoming case, we can help you figure out the best strategy. Contact Senior Vice President Claire Luna at firstname.lastname@example.org or 714.754.1010.
Oh, and for the record? The answers to the questions posed in the first paragraph are the New England Patriots, three (out of 18 nominations) and a Canadian dish of French fries topped with a gravy-like sauce and cheese curds.