Unobvious Sources Impacting Witness Performance and Jury Response - Part 1
Part 1 of 2
Intense emotions, such as fear or anger, can mentally wear down witnesses at deposition and during a jury trial. While it is understandable for witnesses to be emotional about the experience of testifying, the unintended impact it may have on witness performance could negatively impact a jury response and could result in a nuclear verdict. Jurors themselves are also susceptible to increased stress and uncertainty, which may influence juror perceptions and jury decision-making.
The emotionality of both witnesses and jurors could be the result of innumerable circumstances and contexts. While some of these conditions are common, such as a nearly universal fear of public speaking, others will be less obvious, such as a job loss or other personal issues. Some of the sources impacting witness performance and jury response could be due to a lack of understanding and familiarity with the litigation process, while others will be personal issues completely unrelated to the current litigation.
It’s these various situations that may be less obvious sources impacting both witness performance and jury response. It’s imperative to take preventative measures to accurately identify and then effectively control and mitigate these factors in order to see the best possible outcomes and avoid nuclear settlements and nuclear verdicts. As part of the legal team, Courtroom Sciences can help prepare witnesses as well as provide science-backed data that lead to predictive results and favorable outcomes.
What are some witness performance blindspots?
A witness's personal beliefs, experiences, and opinions can all lead to witness performance blindspots and leave witnesses susceptible to making mistakes. Traditional witness preparation does not adequately prepare witnesses for manipulative questioning, which can leave them at risk for appearing to be unreasonable, agitated, or condescending. Trial attorneys can’t afford to neglect identifying and understanding a witness's pre-existing emotional style. Witnesses often fall within one or more of four specific emotional styles: the overly agreeable witness, the defensive witness, the angry, victim-role, or former employee witness, and the apathetic witness. Courtroom Sciences can help you identify the ‘blindspots’ in your witnesses and prepare them to perform at the highest level during testimony.
Personal Issues Affecting Witness Performance
Witnesses may feel a heavy burden attached to their testimony, causing them to experience increased stress, uncertainty, and other symptoms of psychological distress as they anticipate their deposition and testimony. In addition to the particular stressors associated with a deposition, witnesses are often concurrently dealing with personal issues, such as:
● family illness
● job loss
● other litigation
● financial problems
● the recent death of someone close
● substance abuse issues
The combination of these negative social factors that are unrelated to the case, along with the inherent stress of the deposition, can cause witnesses to be highly distractible at deposition, as their focus is often elsewhere. These issues may then be responsible for witnesses becoming confused, anxious, flustered, or unpredictable, and recent circumstances have only increased the intensity and prevalence of these social issues.
However, witness performance during a deposition is often the most important factor in the outcome of litigation. As witnesses facing these factors don’t have the emotional resources necessary to sustain acceptable deposition performance, it’s critical for trial attorneys to consult with a trained expert to identify the presence of these issues well before the deposition is scheduled.
Factors Affecting Jury Response
Just as personal issues will affect witnesses, those same factors may also affect jurors and their decision-making process. Frequently instructed to remain neutral, jurors may also feel stressors that are inherent to their distinct roles, stressors such as trial duration, feeling a burden of responsibility, and a desire to do the right thing. Another stressor inherent to jurors is often the burden of the group dynamic, particularly when there may be pressure to comply with the opinions of the majority.
While symptoms of psychological distress can cause witnesses to behave irrationally during testimony, similar underlying factors may also cause jurors to behave in atypical ways. When jurors are stressed or fearful, they may be more likely to engage in a heuristic or experiential information processing mode. Also referred to as an intuitive mode, when in this processing mode, jurors are not able to carefully consider all of the evidence and testimony being presented to them, and instead, they may rely on their initial reactions as well as mental shortcuts to reach a decision quickly. Mental pressures may further cause jurors to become more polarized in their existing beliefs and more adamant defenders of those beliefs.
Both witnesses and jurors who are experiencing personal issues or specific stressors related to their role in the litigation may struggle with significantly impaired attention and concentration. Courtroom Sciences can help trial attorneys secure positive outcomes through our proven witness effectiveness training and science-backed research. Discover how our methodical litigation approach leads to predictive results and favorable outcomes. Speak with one of our experts to get started.
● The emotionality of both witnesses and jurors could be the result of innumerable circumstances and contexts.
● Some of the unobvious sources impacting witness performance and jury response could be personal issues completely unrelated to the current litigation.
● In order to see the best possible outcomes, trial attorneys must find a way to accurately identify and mitigate these factors.
● Courtroom Sciences can help trial attorneys secure positive outcomes through proven witness effectiveness training and science-backed research.
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