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Juror-Assisted Witness Preparation

You can tell a witness what they should do or you can have them read an article that tells them how to be a good witness. You can even have them watch a video that shows them how to testify. But people remember, at best, 20% of what they hear and maybe 40% of what they see, but we remember 90% of what we do. Nothing teaches a witness how to talk to the jurors more than making them do it. Juror-assisted witness preparation gives your witness the opportunity to testify to jurors before the deposition or before the trial.

The jurors will tell them straight what they do well and what they don’t do well. They’ll tell them what parts of their testimony make sense and where they have questions. They’ll tell them straight, but they also tell them kindly. It’s much easier for a witness to take the jurors’ feedback to heart and much more difficult for the witness to ignore or forget it. In just a few minutes jurors can get a witness to learn a lesson you couldn’t get across to your witness in a month of Sundays.

So, how does it work? Well, first you have to reach the witness through the preliminaries. The witness needs to know the substance of their testimony. They need to know the testifying rules that will help them come across well and they need to know their rights as a witness so they can feel and exert some control over the process. We’ve distilled these into the “Ten Rules and Rights for Witnesses.” But as well-constructed as we’ve made this teaching module, they still only absorb a portion because they’ve only heard it. They haven’t done it. Now, they need to practice before jurors.

Eight jurors is the ideal number, but we’ve done this with as few as four and as many as forty. When we do it with a large group, we split up the seating so that the witness testifies to a small group while the rest of the jurors observe. But whether with four or forty, we sit the witness at a table with the jurors. Nothing so teaches the informal, friendly, “look-you-in-the-eye” style of testifying as sitting around a table, talking to the jurors and answering questions that they pose directly to the witness. We always recruit jury leaders. Especially with the small group, there’s little point in having a follower whose only contribution will be say, “I agree with what everyone else has said.”

After going over the basics with the witness and having recruited the jury leaders, we tee up the case for the jurors by presenting an overview of the case. Sometimes we have an attorney give the facts as plaintiff sees them and then another attorney gives them the facts from the point of view of the defense. This method gives them the facts and each side’s arguments or slant on those facts. Other times, we’ve given them a single “just the facts, ma’am” summary. The important thing is to give the jurors a context in which to understand the witness and the testimony from the witness.

Once the jurors have a bird’s eye view of the case, we call the witness, seat them at a table with the jurors, and have the attorneys question the witness. We like to do the direct exam first and then their cross exam. We know that for many witnesses their trial testimony will start with a cross examination, but starting with the direct is better for teaching purposes. When the attorneys are done, the jurors get their chance to ask questions.

The questioning by the jurors is extremely helpful to both the witness and the attorney. The witness learns that the jurors are actually interested and want to understand. They’re not hostile. They don’t have to be feared. Their smart enough but they just don’t know much about the issue under discussion. The witness lives in that world and must teach the jurors in friendly way. For their part, the attorney learns what parts of the case draw the jurors attention and how the jurors put the facts together.

After the questioning, we go around the table and have the jurors give their feedback and advice to the witness. The jurors’ opinions are often remarkably insightful. Their reactions spot-on the central issues and they get these across in plain language. You can take four and even five witnesses through this procedure in a single day. At the end of the day, we have the jurors deliberate the case.

For juror-assisted witness preparation, we recruit jury leaders; intelligent, educated, occupationally successful people with leadership personalities who all participate and who all make original contributions during the deliberations. One jury of 8 to 10 such jurors gives you the same power as 16 to 20 jurors in two juries when half of those jurors are followers who simply echo what others say. When you add in our expertise and experience as clinical psychologists and attorneys with over 15 years as jury psychologists, you’ll find that other consultants need three and even four juries to get what we can give you from a single jury of eight properly selected jurors.

Standard Witness Preparation

Witnesses need emotional preparation as much as factual preparation. Our witness preparation program has a core curriculum suitable for all witnesses, but every witness differs and we always tailor the training to the witness. The core curriculum prepares the witness factually and teaches the Witnesses’ Bill of Right, a method that prevents witness meltdown by empowering the witness to bring the training with them onto the witness stand. Our clinical psychologists guide the witnesses’ emotional preparation.

 

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