Finding Empathetic Jurors

"Empathy" is defined as "the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another." 

When selecting a jury, it is important that a lawyer try to find empathetic jurors or jurors who will be able to stand in the client's shoes (figuratively speaking).  That is to say, it is important that a lawyer try to find those jurors who will be able to identify with the plight of the attorney's client rather than harshly judge an individual for whom they have no understanding. 

As famed trial lawyer Gerry Spence has said, those who are eager to pass judgment on others often have a disposition more akin to that of the executioner.

When selecting a jury, trial lawyer and jury consultant Anne Reed looks for a potential juror's willingness to punish.  Writes Ms. Reed:

Willingness to punish. Is this juror likely to punish the side she finds against? This is a disputed topic, but it rings true to me. Look for:

  • Recent trauma, especially one creating resentment: a recent death, recent divorce or separation, workplace trauma;
  • Low sense of control;
  • Sense that the world been unjust to them: perhaps underemployment, either actual or perceived, or a sense that they did everything right and still lost out;
  • Sense that injustice can and should be set right: some religious traditions, a social conservative or social liberal, strong self-image as a problem-fixer;
  • Strong belief in authoritative rules: rigid, dogmatic, unempathetic, intolerant of rulebreakers;
  • Plain old anger. Sometimes it's easy to pick up unexpressed anger if you're watching for it.

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