Monthly Archives: July 2020

The Myth of Juror Rehabilitation

By Jill D. Schmid, Ph.D.

Protests, COVID, health care, stimulus package, Trump, news (fake or otherwise), monuments, and on and on and on. This country is more divided than ever on nearly every subject. A recent PEW research poll conducted between July 13-19 shows that one’s political leanings (e.g., their political opinions) are an important factor for determining their beliefs about the severity of COVID with 85% of those Democrat or leaning Democrat believing it is a major threat to the health of the public, versus only 46% for those Republican or leaning Republican believing it is a major threat. My colleague Tom O’Toole recently wrote about how one’s personal experience with COVID is also an important factor for how serious they think the virus really is. This combination of experiences and opinion shape how people think and, more importantly, how people act. Research on attitudes and behaviors shows that attitudes predict behavior nearly 70% of the time (Kraus, S.J., 1995). We don’t like to use the “B” word, but one’s opinions and experiences are really just a “nicer” or less “judgmental” way to talk about bias. I’m sure we’ve all heard someone say – or we’ve said something ourselves that sounds like this: “I’m not biased, I just strongly believe….” Continue reading

Recognizing the Emotional Volatility of Your Jurors

By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D.

Yesterday, Seattle Public Schools announced that remote learning will continue indefinitely, meaning public school kids are not going back to school in the fall. A city-wide collective groan followed the announcement. While parents recognize the importance of protecting the health and safety of our community, they also recognize that it is incredibly difficult to have the kids at home every day while they are trying to work from home or manage other aspects of their lives.

This is just one of the many tough realities that your jury pool is facing during the pandemic. Many have lost their jobs or face job uncertainty. Even those who seem secure in their jobs for now may fear the unknown future. The financial impact on jurors creates a tremendous amount of stress. Some have lost loved ones while others fear that they might be the next diagnosis. Additionally, your jurors have been in some variation of isolation for months. The emotional impact of not being able to be around those we care about is difficult to quantify. Continue reading

The Pandemic Highlights the Power of Personal Experience in Persuasion

By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D.

“I don’t think it would make a difference at all. I’m not even convinced this whole coronavirus thing is real. I don’t know anyone who’s had it.” The irony is that Robert, the mock juror who made this statement during deliberations, was exactly the kind of person who should be most concerned about the virus. He checked off many of the high-risk categories for those most susceptible. Yet, despite daily news reports about death tolls and infection rates, and despite his unique vulnerabilities, he was suspicious that it might all just be some sort of hoax.

There is a long list of possible reactions to anecdotes such as this, but for this week’s blog, I want to focus on one very specific part of Robert’s reasoning process. If you re-read his quote, Robert remarked that he does not know anyone who has had it. For Robert, the lack of any direct or indirect personal experiences with coronavirus led him to call into question the overwhelming evidence of its existence. Continue reading

Research Shows COVID-Related Opinion Shifts in Nationwide Jury Pools

By Jill D. Schmid

For the past couple of years, we’ve been conducting national surveys on a variety of subjects in order to find out what kinds of widely held beliefs jurors bring into the courtroom. This data has helped inform many litigation strategies, witness preparation efforts, and jury de-selection strategies. Recently, we put all the questions together, added COVID specific questions, and conducted our largest nationwide survey yet.  All of the data was collected in May 2020. The data not only tells us about how the jury pool will likely be different in the foreseeable future due to the fact that approximately 45% of the population responded that they would ignore a jury summons because of health/safety concerns, but it also shows us how attitudes have shifted as a result of the pandemic.  Here are just a few areas where we saw some swings. Continue reading