Tag Archives: emotion

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

Understanding Heightened Juror Emotions During the Pandemic

By Scott Herndon, M.A.

Traumatic national events, like the COVID-19 pandemic elicit a broad range of emotions in potential jurors. Jurors, like all of us, worry about the safety of our family and loved ones, keeping jobs, the state of the economy, or the stress of taking on new family and educational responsibilities. Recently, we have conducted some national survey research and the data demonstrates that the pandemic has heightened many latent juror attitudes about the government, corporations, and many other institutions and business. These stressors and biases combine to create a mix of emotions that potential jurors bring into the courtroom. Overwhelmingly, and not surprisingly, research on emotion and affective states demonstrates that people bring their emotional baggage with them when making decisions and passing judgements, even if they consciously realize their anger or sadness is extrinsic to the decision they are making. It’s simply human nature. Continue reading

The Important Connection between September 11, COVID-19, and Jury Decision-Making

By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D.

As the country starts to re-open and jury trials resume, it is our job to research and understand what impact the pandemic and the stay-at-home orders that lasted over two months in some states will have on how jurors evaluate liability and damages going forward. There are many ways to approach this kind of research. For example, we just completed on of the largest surveys we have ever conducted in order to get specific answers to some of the questions we know attorneys and general counsel will have. We are currently in the process of analyzing all of that data.

It is also important to look back in history to other significant events for points of comparison. Everyone I talk to immediately draws comparisons to the 2008 recession, which makes a lot of sense given the economic parallels. When I have suggested looking at September 11, many brush off the suggestion, arguing that it is simply not comparable. However, delving behind assumptions, it becomes clear that there are some very important connections that are worth examination. Continue reading

The Illogical Truth About Jury Decision-Making: Jurors Don’t Follow the Law Even When They Follow the Law

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By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D.

In many respects, success in litigation rests on the understanding and appreciation that the philosophy of the justice system and the rules of the game create and maintain a fiction that significantly departs from the reality of how decisions and verdicts are rendered.

The mistaken assumption is the Aristotelian ideal that logic and reason can and will save us. In this vein, the justice system, through trial courts, deploys a simple logical structure that presumes “evidence and testimony + the law  = verdict.” We go to great lengths to carefully manage this fiction, whether it be public oaths by jurors to follow the law, admonishments to jurors to pretend they didn’t hear something, or pretrial rulings that pretend it’s possible to splice out strong emotional components of a case. Continue reading