By Amy Singer, Ph.D. and Diana Greninger
Our American system of justice is the only system in the world that allows for a guaranteed right: to be judged by a jury of one’s peers. But what if your peers simply cannot identify or relate with you? What if they cannot identify with either party because the subject matter is simply too complicated for an average person with an average education to understand?
The last thing a trial attorney wants after waiting months (or sometimes years) for their client’s day in court is to talk to six to twelve blank stares and watch all of the information that they have long prepared to give them go straight over their heads.
Jurors can typically identify with or at least understand a case involving a car accident, a robbery, a slip and fall, discrimination and even a heated relationship that led to a murder. However, when it comes to a chemical plant explosion, a complex contract between two businesses, toxic torts and the like, trial attorneys must often change their presentation approach. For the average person to comprehend advanced intellectual subject matter, the attorney must get extra creative and find ways to lower the level of complexity of that subject matter for the average person to comprehend.
There are proven successful techniques to impart knowledge on jurors in a way they can understand. One technique is applying the doctrine of the Kabbalah. The study of Kabbalah has grown more and more popular over the years. Its purpose is to shed light on how to increase awareness and understanding of all things. Kabbalah can be applied to litigation as it teaches us that people make decisions based on knowledge (daat), understanding (binah) and wisdom (chokmah).
The best way to impart knowledge (daat) to the jury is through the use of demonstrative evidence. It is much easier for a juror to look at an image and try to interpret it based on an expert’s testimony and explanation rather than trying to visualize a hypothetical construct, such as calibrations or G forces in their own minds.
The best way to impart understanding (binah) is through the use of analogies and metaphors. It is likely that a juror cannot understand the process one must go through when buying a chemical plant, for example. However, most jurors can understand the process one must go through prior to buying a home. If they can identify with the analogy, they can identify with your side of the story. It is important to note that analogies are what jurors will remember and what they will discuss in the jury room. Among a sea of information they may not have understood about chemical reactions and construction materials, for example, you have provided them with ammunition to win others over in the jury room once they understand your analogy. People intuitively use analogies when they deliberate to convince others.
Finally, once you have provided jurors with knowledge and understanding, you allow them to develop wisdom (chokmah) regarding the pivotal point in your case. Wisdom can be described as a moment of truth, that ah-ha moment when everything comes together and everything seems clear. Jurors like to feel good about their final verdict (to speak the truth). A trial lawyer once said to me, “a verdict must be therapeutic.” The verdict is ultimately about universal benevolence, public-spiritedness, positive social impact and making the world a safe and better place for all of us and future generations.
A complex case calls for a complex strategic plan that makes it simple for people to grasp.