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Cornell Survey of Juror Thoughts on Trial Technology

Two years ago, the Cornell Law Review published the results of a survey of more than 500 jurors who served at federal trials. Hon. Amy J. St. Eve & Gretchen Scavo, What Do Juries Really Think: Practical Guidance for Trial Lawyers, 103 Cornell L. Rev. Online 149 (2018). The authors of the study are a judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, and a former Winston & Strawn LLP partner. The article discusses jurors' thoughts about lawyers' use of technology and the presentation of evidence that paralegals help prepare. Here are some key points:

1. Jurors prefer that attorneys use technology to present evidence.

2. Jurors appreciate the use of timelines. They want evidence to presented chronologically.

3. The main issue the surveyed jurors focused on was "attorney organization, preparation, and efficiency". Id. at 155.

4. Jurors frequently complained that they were not able to hear the attorneys. The authors recommend testing the acoustics of the courtroom before the trial begins.

5. "Many jurors are accustomed to learning through technology, and technologically enhanced presentations present an ideal platform to summarize and connect the dots between the evidence presented at trial and the applicable law in a way that is especially useful for visual learners." Id. at 169-70.

6. Jurors have a preference for evidence that is displayed visually on screens.

7. Jurors will be critical if attorneys cannot use technology effectively. They complained when attorneys did not learn how to use hardware beforehand.

8. Every trial tech who has been in the hot seat will appreciate that the authors admonish lawyers to, "take the time to learn about and practice with the courtroom's technology so that the trial is not a dress rehearsal." Id. at *170.

9. Jurors prefer that deposition designations not be made for long excerpts of testimony.

10. Focus on the relevance of exhibits and do waste time discussing unimportant details.

11. Give the jury sufficient time to read exhibits that are displayed to them.

The article also points out that jurors "despise--and are even insulted" when attorneys excessively repeat questions or basic concepts. Id. at 153. They also do not like it when attorneys are hostile to each other, or when they attack witnesses.

The article ends with this conclusion: "Effective use of technology helps, as does organizing evidence into a cohesive timeline or other easy to-follow summary." Id. at 174.

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