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if you were a juror...?(21 posts)

if you were a juror...?DougSloan
Aug 27, 2003 4:53 AM
If you were a juror and had already sat through 3 weeks of detailed evidence, at the closing argument stage, would you prefer being refreshed by the lawyers on evidentiary details at length, or would you prefer to have them make their argument concise and be done with it, as you likely already know what you are going to do? Any thoughts? (former jurors around?)

Doug
re: if you were a juror...?ClydeTri
Aug 27, 2003 5:01 AM
I have been called to jury duty, but wasnt selected...however, I would venture to say that every case is unique. It seems if the closing arguments dragged on and on, it could stand to alienate some of the jurors who are probably ready to get back to their real life. On the other side of the coin, a serious charge deserves due discourse, so, too breif of a closing statement could look flippant.
I know..no help am I?
Just my opinion, but....MR_GRUMPY
Aug 27, 2003 5:17 PM
If you're all by yourself, just state the important facts, without dragging on too long. Make your point, and move on.
On the other hand, if you have a co-counsel that is female, good looking, but not too good looking, she can really pour it on. The men on the jury won't mind listening to her, as long as she smiles at them once in a while. The women won't mind, as long as she looks at them, and makes them feel important.
A court case is like combat. It doesn't matter HOW you win, it only matters that you DO win.
Are you going first or last? nmOldEdScott
Aug 27, 2003 5:13 AM
middleDougSloan
Aug 27, 2003 5:45 AM
plaintiff counsel goes first
me
co-defendant counsel
plaintiff rebuttal
Bad spot.OldEdScott
Aug 27, 2003 6:05 AM
If were going last, you could make the decision based on how windy/concise the first guy was, and how the jury seemed to be reacting.

As is, if you feel confident you have the jury on your side, be brief. If not, I guess you need to be detailed, and figure they'll blame the next two guys in line for keeping them in their seats too long.

A rule of thumb I use is, the attention span of even the most highly motivated audience is 15 minutes. If you have something crucial to communicate, you better get it in within that frame. Anything you bring up after 15 minutes is hit-or-miss as to connecting with the audience, because their attention is coming and going.
The latter. With at most 3 salient evidentiary details. nm128
Aug 27, 2003 5:44 AM
re: if you were a juror...?Becky
Aug 27, 2003 6:27 AM
Depends.....were the jurors allowed to keep notes?
Based on my last juror experience, I would say keep it short and sweet. Speaking from a juror's perspective, I would prefer to hear the most crucial evidence repeated briefly to refresh my memory (and notes, if your jury took them). If the jury didn't keep notes, the refresher may need to be more detailed, but still concise overall.
A long-winded closing argument often serves to bore the jury, who is eagerly waiting to *finally* discuss all that they've debated internally during the trial.

Just my 2 cents...
Becky
yes, notesDougSloan
Aug 27, 2003 6:33 AM
They take notes, and they can ask to see any of the documents admitted in evidence.

I think our side is ahead, and the jurors definitely want to get the heck out of there (one threatened not to return last Friday evening). Nonetheless, there is $14 million at stake, so I don't want to short change my client (the City of Fresno).

Thanks.

Doug
it depends...mohair_chair
Aug 27, 2003 6:35 AM
I don't think I could ever be a juror because I just can't sit still for that long, so if I fell asleep during the trial, you might have to remind me. :)

I would definitely want a concise reminder of the evidence. Make it quick. He said this, but he did this. This document says this. The contract says this. If you went through all the evidence in detail, frankly I'd be a little insulted. Haven't I also been sitting here for three weeks? Do I look senile? I could be home right now if you would shutup! Cover each piece of evidence in one sentence, tell me the conclusion you want me to draw from it, and sit down so I can do my job.
Try to give jurors a simple, clearcut decisionContinental
Aug 27, 2003 7:25 AM
that they could explain to their spouse or friends in 2 minutes. "You can't convict if the glove doesn't fit." I know that's probably tough, but that's why you lawyers are paid the big bucks. My take on successful lawyers is that when they are working with the client,they can make the simple seem complicated, but when the face a jury they can make the complicated seem simple.
My jury duty experience was fascinating...PdxMark
Aug 27, 2003 8:48 AM
It was a factually simple case. A young woman was charged with hit & run and reckless driving.

According to her story, she was driving home from work late one night. At a stop light around midnight, she says a guy pulled up alongside her and exposed himself to her. She was alone & scared, and tried to speed away from the guy when the light changed. He followed her for a mile or so along this main road until she turned into her neighborhood, thinking she had lost him. She described his vehicle as a dark pick-up truck.

Going through the neighborhood she had a collision with a dark pick-up truck. She thought it was the guy who exposed himself and she drove away to her home. Rather than go inside, she then ran several blocks to an all night market, called a friend, and went home with the friend. The friend coroborated that that was the story she told that night and that she was very upset (hysterical?) when she called.

It turns out that the people in the truck were not the guy. It was a young teen couple. The woman's car was found by police the next morning, parked in her driveway several blocks away. That same day, she also filed an accident report as required by law, not knowing that she would eventually have charges pressed against her. She didn't learn about the charges until weeks later.

The defense conceded that she hit the truck. They went for a choice of evils defense. Basically, if she had a reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm, she was entitled to do whatever was necessary to protect herself. Once the defense was raised, the burden shifted to the prosecution to rebut the defense.

The young woman seemed believable and and hard-working. She was on her way from from one of her 2 jobs. The only rebuttal given by the prosecutor to her defense was that he mockingly disbelieved that guy could have exposed himself to her, with him in his pickup and her in her small car.

In the jury room, the majority was instantly ready to convict on both charges. As stated by one kindly old woman "she did it." Yes, I said, but there is a defense. If the defense applies, it doesn't matter if she did it. We went round & round. Most there utterly ignored (or did not understand) the effect of the defense. It was the movie 12 angry men, and I was the odd guy out.

For a trial that lasted an hour or two, our deliberations weren't done by the end of the day, so we came back the next day.

In the end, we convicted on reckless and acquitted on hit & run. For me, I concluded that her driving too fast through a dark neighborhood was not NECESSARY to her protecting herself. On the other hand, reasonably believing that the car she collided with was The Guy, it was reasonable & necessary for her to not get out and make contact with him. I think many of the others went along because I finally agreed to convict her on something.

I feel good about how we decided it, but was amazed at how readily the defense was ignored (or misunderstood).

So in conclusion, I think a simple concise statement of how the facts fit with the applicable law would be the way to go. It's a soundbite world, and that's what was carried into my jury room.
My jury duty experience was fascinating...ClydeTri
Aug 27, 2003 9:16 AM
if this woman was innocent, did she call the police and report the whole thing as soon as she was in a "protected" place????
My jury duty experience was fascinating...PdxMark
Aug 27, 2003 11:47 AM
Apparently not, which did count against her credibility.
Doug, other thoughts...ClydeTri
Aug 27, 2003 9:41 AM
Obviously you are trained to "play to your crowd". If you have a jury full of engineers, technical people, etc, they want the facts, just the facts. If you have a jury full of "soccer moms" you are probably wanting to head down the emotional route..have them crying in the jury box....
did yall use a jury adivisor when selecting the jury?
Here's your opening statement, "This is Chewbacca . . . ." (nm)Turtleherder
Aug 27, 2003 10:58 AM
I started J Duty, I'm about to be impanneled...HAL9010
Aug 27, 2003 12:06 PM
Last time I was on for 2.5 weeks. I would (have) prefered a refresher, then the closing agrs. I know time is of the essence for your jury, at least one in particular. But you are paid the big bucks to pick the best high points. We (Jurors) have a lot thrown at us from two sides plus the Judges instructions and are somewhat passive partisapants. You as a litigant are keyed up (and far more familiar) to the sequence of events during the trial.

In any event as a Juror, even an impatiant one, he and the others want to do the right thing in the end after all we have been through.

I'm about to be impanneled on Friday. There were only 18 of called to the Jury services office for this case and with my Jury Duty track record I'll get impanneled. Not that I mind at all(but this one could be a four month'er!).

Hope that is of some value to you Doug.
Simplify, crystalize & address the opposition arguments.Len J
Aug 27, 2003 5:19 PM
Simplify, crystalize & address the opposition arguments.Len J
Aug 27, 2003 5:23 PM
The more complex the case, the more important it is to translate it into simple, logical arguments that cut to the meat of the issues. You know what the opposition arguments are, so address why their argument doesn't stand up to the facts.

The one jury I have been on was a seamingly complex capital murder trial. The Jury was mostly rural blue color, high school educated people. I was impressed with the genuine desire to do the right thing, to take it seriously and the plain old common sense that the jurors brought to the deliberations.

My advice treat them as adults, but cut to the heart of the matter, give them easy reasons to decide in your favor.

Good Luck

Len
thanks for the inputDougSloan
Aug 28, 2003 4:26 AM
We're going at it this morning. Thanks.

Doug

fresnoBee.com
Arguments in Fresno housing trial close
By Jerry Bier
The Fresno Bee
Published 08/28/03 05:05:17

Closing arguments are expected today in a four-week federal court trial that has pitted a Fresno development firm against the city and former City Council Member Chris Mathys.

The six-year legal fight began after the city rejected a proposed 324-unit low-income apartment complex planned by Affordable Housing Development Corp. in northwest Fresno.

Developers Peter Herzog and Michael Conway accused Mathys of leading neighbors in a "not-in-my-back yard" opposition to the apartment complex -- which would have included 208 three- and four-bedroom units -- stirring anger and accusations of racism.

Mathys has testified that he was opposed to the federally backed tax-free bonds that the developers were seeking, contending that approval of the bonds would have been a gift of public funds.

Herzog and Conway were planning to build the complex on 23.5 acres zoned for apartments near Herndon and Polk avenues and needed city approval of the bond financing.

The battle turned into most contentious planning issue in Fresno during the 1990s and ended with the City Council's voting 5-2 against the project after a three-hour hearing in the Fresno Convention Center's Saroyan Theatre on March 25, 1997.

City lawyers called one witness Wednesday, certified public accountant John Slater, before concluding their defense in the case. Slater testified about potential cash flow and potential profits and losses over the life of the apartment project had it been built.

The apartments would have targeted "low-income families with children who are disproportionately of minority races and ethnicities," according to the lawsuit.

But Mathys and other council members who opposed the project, none of whom are currently on the council, said some of their reasons for rejecting it were a concern for school crowding as well as a high vacancy rate among apartments in the city.

The reporter can be reached at jbier@fresnobee.com or 441-6484.

© 2002 , The Fresno Bee
article on closingDougSloan
Aug 29, 2003 6:38 AM
fresnoBee.com
Housing lawsuit sent to the jury
By Jerry Bier
The Fresno Bee
Published 08/29/03 05:15:17

A lawyer defending the city of Fresno against a $27 million lawsuit told a federal jury Thursday that its role is not unlike the one the City Council faced when it decided the fate of a planned 324-unit affordable housing complex in northwest Fresno.

Six years ago, developers Peter Herzog and Michael Conway needed four Fresno City Council votes to win approval of their proposed Wellington Place development. They got two and lost in a 5-2 decision.

Douglas T. Sloan, one of the attorneys representing the city, said in closing arguments that the jury has heard much of the same evidence the council did when it rejected the development on March 25, 1997.

However, in this federal court civil trial, the developers -- or the city and former Council Member Chris Mathys -- will need a unanimous verdict to win.

The six women and three men on the jury began deliberations Thursday afternoon in the fourth week of trial in which Herzog and Conway, owners of Affordable Housing Development Corp., claim the city and Mathys violated the federal Fair Housing Act by rejecting their project.

William J. Davis, a Los Angeles attorney representing the developers, told the jurors that the most important thing they can do "is give life to this law because it means nothing if it is not enforced."

Davis contended that the council and Mathys, despite the reasons they gave, discriminated against minorities and families with children when they turned down the project near Herndon and Polk avenues.

If someone suffers a loss then can't recover anything, "what incentive is there to do this housing?" Davis asked. He said Herzog and Conway lost money when the project was denied, but more than that, "the reality is a lot of people lost housing."

He asked the jury to "send a message to this city this type of conduct must be stopped ... send a message to Mr. Mathys that he cannot simply break the law."

Sloan countered that it is "very easy to make claims of racial discrimination ... it's another thing to come into court and prove it."

The jury watched a video of the entire council meeting that saw the council deny approval of federal bonds to finance Wellington Place. Sloan noted it was shown so jurors would have "no doubt what occurred at the council meeting."

Council members, including Mathys, who opposed the project cited crowding in schools and an already high vacancy rate for apartments in the city, as well as their opposition to what they termed a gift of taxpayer funds to finance the project.

Mathys' lawyer, Nancy Jenner, said neither he nor the other council members who voted against Wellington Place were discriminating against anyone.

"They have twisted the law to try to fit their case ... but the law doesn't support their interpretation of discrimination," Jenner said.

She said Mathys wasn't "trying to hurt anybody. All he tried to do is help the people who put him in office be heard."

She said the developers were angry because they didn't get their way, but "not getting your way does not equate to racial discrimination, it does not equate to discrimination against families with children."

The city "is not governed by developers," said Jenner, adding that Mathys "had the courage and tenacity to stand up for the people of Fresno."

Herzog and Conway's lawsuit claimed $27 million when it was filed, but Davis asked the jury to award damages of $12.8 million in his closing argument.

The reporter can be reached at jbier@fresnobee.com or 441-6484.

© 2002 , The Fresno Bee