The movie poster from the 1957 film “12 Angry Men” features the tagline “Life is in their hands! Death is on their minds!” It’s a somewhat hysterical reflection of the plot, in which a lone juror in a murder trial attempts to sway his fellow panelists to change their votes and avoid a miscarriage of justice.
But 61 years later, the idea of a court case left to chance is about far removed from modern practice as the giant mutant ants in the ’50s sci-fi classic “Them.” Today, high-power attorneys use “mirror juries” to try out their arguments on real people as similar as possible to those empaneled on the actual jury.
If you’ve caught the CBS TV drama “Bull,” you’ve already gotten a glimpse into how this works. But away from the cameras of fictional television, real jury consultants are consulting actual jury research for big trials every single day.
But how are they tracking how these jurors respond to opening and closing statements, witnesses, testimony and tactics? With a variation on audience response technology.
Jury research typically takes place in two distinct ways. One is using personal electronic tablets – iPads and similar devices – to show mock jurors slides with questions typically applied to potential jurors and mimic the process of jury selection.
The second involves testing how well testimony and legal arguments will play to a jury. Mock jurors respond via polling software to recorded or live presentations of how the legal team plans to pursue the case. The poll results are tallied at the end, giving attorneys the data they need to hone their arguments and improve their case.
This self-paced process can be customized based on the scenario, and features conditional branching, a type of questioning logic that allows the system to create “If X, then Y” versions of subsequent questions based on a respondent’s answers.