Are You Involving Your Jurors During Direct Examination?

It’s no secret that jurors’ minds can wander.  Just poke your head into any courtroom shortly after lunch and you’ll see jurors mentally “checking out” and letting their brains wander away from the courthouse.

The important question we need to ask is, “How do we keep their minds inside the courtroom?”

One solution is to get your jurors more involved in the case.  When jurors are actively engaged in your case, it’s impossible for their minds to wander away.  One of the best ways you can get them involved is to turn them into demonstrative aids during trial.

Here are a few examples of different ways to get your jurors more involved during the direct examination of your witnesses:

Let’s say you’ve got a doctor who is describing a broken bone.  You could involve the jurors by having the doctor show the jurors how to locate the same bone on their own body:   “The bone that was broken in Johnny’s forearm was the ulna.  If you hold your left arm out in front of you in the ‘thumbs-up’ position, when you touch your left forearm, the bone on the bottom side of your forearm (the pinkie side) is the ulna.”

Maybe you could have them conduct a simple medical test upon themselves:

  • “The first thing we do when we find the patient on the ground is check for a pulse to see if he’s alive.  We don’t check the wrist.  Instead, we check the carotid pulse.  It’s easy to do.  Just take your index and your middle finger and place them right here, in the hollow between the windpipe and the large muscle in the neck.  That’s it.  Press lightly until you feel a pulse.  When I placed my fingers against his neck, I couldn’t feel anything, so I knew I had to start CPR…”
  • If you were examining the treating physician who conducted a knee jerk reflex test on your client, you could get the doctor to instruct the jurors how their legs should be positioned, how he conducts the test, how and where he strikes the knee, what the expected results should be, what your client’s results were, etc.  Done well, your jury will feel like they’re in the examination room with him when he performs the evaluation.  As he describes the reflex test, some of them will probably even try tapping their own knees.

Another way you can engage the jurors is to have them envision sizes or distances:

  • “How big was the rock that he threw at the car?  If you were to make a fist with your right hand, that’s about the same size.”
  • “How close was I when he pointed the gun at me?  Pretty close, just a few feet away.  The distance between me and the juror in the third seat over there — that’s about how close we were when I saw the gun.”
  • “The child was delivered 16 weeks early, so she was incredibly small.  Cup your hands together to form a bowl — she could have fit right there in your hands.”

Or you could help them understand an unknown object by comparing it to something they already understand:

  • “The material was soft and spongy, but it had a dense core underneath.  If you touch your forefinger against the tip of your nose and press until you feel the cartilage, you’ll get an idea what it feels like.”
  • “There were two different types of hinges we were talking about.  The first one was like your knee — it could bend or straighten, but it wasn’t designed to rotate. The other type of hinge was more like your shoulder joint — it was more flexible and could rotate around.”

An additional benefit of turning your jurors into visual aids or demonstrative aids is that your aids will definitely be allowed back into the jury room.  Start thinking of ways that you can actively involve your jurors, and their minds won’t wander out of the courtroom any more.

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4 thoughts on “Are You Involving Your Jurors During Direct Examination?

  1. Wow! Great tip! I have always tried to get my jurors involved and make them feel like they are important! After all, a lot of them don’t even want to be sitting there!
    Thanks so much for the tips Elliott! They keep me on top of my game and I really do enjoy them!

    P.S. Go Gators!!!!

  2. Having practiced law for 50 years I am amazed at the suggestions you make that I have either missed or forgotten. Please keep them coming.

  3. One of your best…most practical, and not something you’d think about normally…thank you Elliott….Happy New Year.