Final Arguments: Psychological Analysis – Conditioning the Jury
Dr. Manges Ph.D. | Forensic Psychologist
Conditioning the jury
Life experience restricted by court sanctions will be the basis on which the jury will view and interpret the evidence before them. As jurors, their minds are not blank nor are they exclusively limited to what is said about the case in the courtroom. Chance encounters, out of court observations and ordinary daily events take on more weight than testimony. Realities of the case will be weighed against expectations of the juror’s known and unknown prejudice.
People do not know their unconscious prejudices. They become aware of them when questioned as to why they think the way they do. During final arguments, to condition a jury and to facilitate their thinking a positive direction toward your client you must do two things. One, anticipate the questions they have in their minds and two, offer them a theme or thread with which to weave a tapestry of the process they are going through.
This is the time to identify the persons and information the juror is about to consider. Part hyperbole and part rhetoric this the time to introduce your theme and give them questions consider that when answered will prove your case.
After providing the juror with reasons for the suit having been filed (the conflict) and suggest that the resolution is within their power to grant. Avoid becoming too impassioned too quickly, a show of emotion prematurely would be uncalled for, but do respond with an appropriate emotion to the context of the words being expressed.
As a psychologist, I look for people who express appropriate affect congruent with the content of the words they are expressing. Jurors may not express themselves in the same way but they never the less react in accordance with the way the message is delivered.
Themes are perhaps the most important part of your conditioning and persuasion arsenal. Brand names become that way because advertising agencies are adept and condition buyers to continually select one product over the competition.
The Final Argument is an extension of what you have been presenting throughout. The theme you select needs to be one where all of the elements are considered and cannot be refuted by information that becomes available at trial.
A theme that works combines the ingredients of the cause of action, an appeal to reason with a mixture of emotion. Not an easy task that you may have already guessed.
Medical Malpractice, Plaintiff theme for damages nerve causing inability to move facial muscles or feel the right side of the face.
When John was ten years old Dr. Jones performed a surgery that caused this man to become known as the “boy who would not smile.”
Contract Dispute, Defense theme for a company filing suit against a former employee for taking sales and marking plan.
Mary asked our company to support her sales efforts. She accepted our commitment to her success and then stole our information to further her selfish needs. She is a woman who would not honor her agreement.
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