Bias is an inclination or prejudice in favor of or against something, a person, a group or thought when compared to another. Often, it is considered to be unfair. Bias can work for or against you. Everyone has feelings, beliefs and attitudes that color their perceptions of the world. Identifying how potential jurors make judgments, form opinions and explain behavior is critical to the outcome of your trial. When a potential juror holds a bias that is key to the issues inherent to your case, the potential juror cannot be expected to evaluate the evidence objectively and is a poor candidate to serve on that particular jury.
The filters through which jurors receive and process information are firmly ingrained, shaped by a lifetime of familial, social and political influences. Jurors will not change their predispositions and attitudes about the world to fit your trial story. The Jury Bias Model™ provides powerful insights into how to analyze your case, and how jurors are likely to think and feel about the issues raised in the case. It teaches you to prepare your trial story to overcome prejudices against your client and take advantage of biases in your client’s favor. There are a variety of research tools to assist you, including focus groups, mock trials, public opinion surveys, metaphorical research, and structural integration.
The Jury Bias Model™ is based largely on the perceptual lenses that jurors apply in deciding cases – lenses that often bias juror decision making. It helps trial attorneys identify possible biases by using scientific and psychosocial methods to gather and evaluate information from potential jurors.
In today’s tort reform environment, a large segment of the public has adopted negative attitudes about plaintiffs, their lawyers and the civil justice system. Tort reform advocates have done such a thorough job of implanting biases in many potential jurors that it is virtually impossible for those individuals to overcome their bias in a jury situation.
The Jury Bias Model™ was created specifically to help you identify issues that jurors care about and identify potential jurors who hold dangerous biases. Employing the Model will reduce the impact of years of tort reform propaganda. It teaches you to use tort reform’s themes and rhetoric to your advantage beginning with discovery, trial strategy and preparation, jury questioning, and throughout every phase of trial preparation and presentation.
Time and again, we have observed how applying the Jury Bias Model™ can stem the tide of jury bias. Every attorney knows “Winning Works”! We believe that our psychological approach to preparing plaintiffs’ cases and fighting for courtroom justice may be creating a paradigm shift in American trial practice.
We all would be happy to believe there is a single, universal truth waiting to be discovered by those who have all of the necessary facts. We think, “If only the jurors are able to understand this set of facts, the conclusion will be obvious, and truth and justice shall prevail.” There is comfort in believing that if everyone had access to the same information, everyone would agree. Yet we know, and our experience proves that this is just not the case. In social science, this is called naïve realism, which is the tendency to believe that if others had the same information we have they would come to the same conclusion. If they don’t, then they are unreasonable or just wrong. This is the fail-safe most of us take when we deal with someone who disagrees with us. We think they are either misinformed or irrational.[i]
In reality, different people with access to the same information and the same presentation of facts, reach different conclusions. Jurors reach different conclusions about what is true because they start from different places. Our different beliefs influence how we perceive and assemble new information about the world around us. There may be no such thing as objective facts. Facts are observed, perceived and understood by individual jurors according to the juror’s own needs, attitudes, beliefs, makeup, experiences and schemas.[ii]
The facts and the law are important to the outcome of your case, but they are often not as important as the juror’s beliefs and whether the trial story is consistent with those beliefs. If your story conflicts with jurors’ beliefs and expectations, the best facts and strongest case law may not get you there.
Bottom-Up Preparation and Preparing to Win is a different way of preparing your case to enhance your likelihood of achieving your goal for your client.
Working with bottom-up preparation results in an active process of looping back and forth to the facts, the frame, the sequence, discovering schema, developing ideas, and testing them against the research and data. Revise the ideas, rebuild the frame, and reorder the sequence. If it fails—rebuild it again. The core of the process is listening to what the potential jury thinks important, not what you think important. When you know what matters to the jury, you can frame and position your case to match the jury’s thinking as much as possible. Bottom-Up Preparation is a step-by-step approach that works!
You already know how to prove your case according to the law. Using the Jury Bias Model™, Framing and Bottom-Up Preparation will help you understand how to prove your case to jurors.