By Hon. (Ret.) Ken E. Adair
Respect Can Disarm the Most Intimidating Juror
Video Transcribed: An old mentor, a friend of mine, taught me years ago, that under every rock of fear is a pot of gold. And we were talking about jurors that are sometimes just kind of mean about the process. I used to always think that these type of jurors, were just trying to get out of jury duty.
They were trying to get kicked off the jury panel, and to some extent that might’ve been true. But, I think there are people out there that just believe, that you’re a plaintiff’s lawyer, you’re asking for money, and if the case didn’t settle, it didn’t settle because you want too much money. They assume that these professionals are reasonable, and that nobody’s going to refuse to pay what they’re responsible to pay. That’s not true. We all know that’s true.
But every now and then, you get a juror… And I’ll never forget this one particular juror, after my friend taught me about this. And the rule is basically, when somebody scares you on the jury panel, instead of doing what lawyers always do, and we scurry like a cockroach to get out of the way, and we put in the back of our mind, well that juror’s gone, you just did a couple of horrible things. Number one, you’ve missed a great opportunity.
Number two, you’ve just demonstrated to everybody else on that jury panel, that you’re afraid of what that person just said. And the truth is, it rings true like a well cast bell. Another lawyer mentor friend of mine, tells me that all the time, that the truth rings true, like a well cast bell.
If you know anything about bells, they don’t always ring true. Sometimes they get remelted because they just didn’t ring, something went wrong. But the truth always rings true, and so if you run and hide from something that somebody said, a legitimate opinion…
This one juror I had, I was asking about, “Anybody here that doesn’t agree, in principle, with the concept of coming to court and asking for money damages for an injury.” And this one lady, upper left hand corner, raised her hand, and I can see her to this day, and she said, “Well,” and she crossed her arms, and she says, “Well, if you’re here asking for money, and this case didn’t settle already, then I think you’re just a greedy lawyer.”
And I resisted the instinct to scurry off like we always do, and I took my friend’s advice. And I hunkered down, and I looked at her and I said, “Ma’am,” I said, “thank you for saying that to me. You know that’s not what I wanted to hear, but you said it anyway.”
And that kind of annoyed her a little bit, but I was polite to her. I never ever find a need, or any usefulness, to be mean to a juror. They all have their own opinions and feelings, and they’re real. They belong to that person, and so you have to respect it.
And I said, “I understand that, because I’m the only person in this room that’s going to be asking for money, that appears on its face to be greedy. And I get that. But ma’am, are you open to the possibility, that maybe, that somebody that doesn’t want to accept responsibility, or accept full responsibility for something they did, that, that might be the greedy person?” And she said, “No, I don’t think so. I think this case would have settled if you weren’t being greedy.”
And she was being kind of mean-spirited toward me. And I said to her again, I said, “Okay, that also was hard to hear. Have there been any incidents in your life, anything you’ve seen, watched on TV…” And I always were dire about lawyer TV commercials, before I get to this point. “Anything you’ve seen on TV, anything that causes you to feel that way, that you’re not even open to the possibility that the other side is the greedy side?” She’s, “Nope, you’re asking for money, you’re greedy.”
Now, what happens at this point, is the other jurors in the jury panel are physically distancing themselves, and leaning away and turning their body language. And you could see it, like a wave at a football game in a football stadium.
You see the body language of the jurors moving away from this person. And then I told her that, “This process requires that you be willing to award money damages, if the defendant wronged my client, as we’ve alleged. And, are you telling me that’s something you cannot do?” And then she says, “I don’t know, maybe.” And I said, “Well, you have to do it if that’s what you find as a jury.” And then I asked her if she thought maybe she should be on some other jury, and not one of these civil cases where somebody is asking for money, and she did, and I didn’t have to waste a peremptory on her.
So remember, when you feel like running away… and you should anticipate the things that are going to scare you about every case… don’t run away. Under every rock of fear… And I’m going to tell you, it was not easy. It was hard for me to just sit there and talk to this woman, but after I did it that first time, it’s easy now. I can treat everybody with respect.
You can treat everybody with respect. But don’t run away, and tell the jury that you’re afraid of that issue. Because what I did, is when I talked to her, and only her, and nobody else, I taught that jury that I wasn’t afraid of this issue, and that the truth was ringing true like a well cast bell. And the jury rejected her, and then she asked to be excused. I hope this has been helpful. I look forward to talking to you again, and thank you very much.