when the perfect witness isn't

When The Perfect Witness Isn’t

Carolyn KochMock Trials/Focus Groups/Trial Strategy

when the perfect witness isn't

Say you are defending a large corporation with a national reputation.  You have a key witness who is a young (40s), Hispanic female who started out at the very bottom and worked her way up to the top.  You might believe that jurors would give your client credit for paving the way for this woman’s success. You see her as just the witness needed to help the corporation look its best in a sexual harassment case.  

You have faith in this witness and you thought she did great in her deposition. But if you are smart, and defending a case that could cost your client millions, you wouldn’t assess your chances of winning based on your own belief that your witness is solid. You would seek out the opinions of objective lay persons who have no stake in the case outcome.  Why is that so important? Because, chances are great that jurors won’t see witnesses (or the case) the same way that you do. What typically happens is that jurors’ feelings about your case will color their view of your witnesses.

Perfect Witness or Perfect Puppet?

How did the mock jurors see this young, successful Hispanic female who worked her way from the bottom to the top? Honest and hardworking? Proof that the defendant corporation cares about people, especially women? Not exactly. 

Out of the Jurors’ Mouths

After mock jurors heard the facts of the case and saw video clips of the key witness testimony, they filled out questionnaires describing the defendant’s star witness as:  “Emotionless, neglectful, non-compassionate, cold, indifferent, guarded, afraid to talk, trying to protect her job, trying to please her employer, arrogant, had an attitude problem, not thorough, biased, uncaring, defensive, irresponsible, selfish, not concerned about [the victim] but concerned about [the corporation], not perceptive enough to realize the holes in the investigation, unprofessional, indecisive, inexperienced and not qualified, company person, defensive, incompetent, frustrated, ignored obvious details about the offender, conducted incomplete investigations and follow up, uncommunicative, scripted, vague, negative, fearful, money driven.”

Reliable Feedback from Mock Jurors

When 30 individual jurors of mixed genders, ages, races, educational and professional backgrounds all condemn your witness, you can be sure that you’ve uncovered some serious problems with your case.  In the above example, the unanimity of the negative feedback helped the defendant see that they had more problems than they had initially thought; problems that couldn’t be overcome by what they previously thought was strong witness testimony. The feedback was a sobering reminder that the best time to help a witness perfect his or her testimony is before their deposition is taken, not after. 

Jury Research on Any Scale

At Jury Solutions, LLC, we have always done jury research projects on small, medium and large scales.  We’ve also been doing more and more of these cases on-line, where lawyers can save themselves the travel and time commitment required by the more traditional approach, while quickly being able to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their case.  

If you’d like to learn how jury research can help you test out a witness, assess a case, plan out discovery, or approach mediation with powerful leverage, contact me at ckoch@jurysolutions.com.