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A jury of your technologically-sophisticated peers

A couple of weeks ago we highlighted some particularly egregious examples of inappropriate social media use in the courtroom, such as a judge sending a Facebook “like” request to one of the parties in a case she was ruling on, jurors polling their friends on Twitter regarding the guilt or innocence of the defendant in the case they were hearing, and the like.

In the current issue of Decision Points, Miles Hutton, Ph.D. and long-time professional jury consultant posits that social media and looking up everything on one’s smartphone also has far-reaching consequences on how jurors ingest information, particularly Millennials, aka. Generation Y (so-called for who knows-“Y”) and that a trial lawyer ignores this at his own risk (Well, more aptly, the risk of his client, but it’s not so great for the attorney, either).

As these M’s, as we’ll call them for short, are defined as everyone born between 1982 and 2000, clearly some of them are barely old enough to appear as defendants in juvenile court. But they are becoming an increasingly large presence on juries, which is only going to grow, on account of demographics and the fact that only 6 of 10 of them are employed, so they have fewer excuses to get out of jury duty.

For starters, Hutton says that many M’s are so weaned on seeing sophisticated computer graphics everywhere they look that if they are presented with complex evidence in court that does not utilize this technology, they resent it. Not just would “prefer” a hi-tech presentation, but actively resent being expected to process complicated materials unaccompanied by cool graphics. That’s partly attributable to “listening” being considered a “passive” activity, while viewing flow charts or depictions of crime scenes or pollution sites that can be zoomed in on and seen from different angles or timelines is considered the way-preferable “interactive” mode of fact reception. Presumably the day is not too far off when jurors will get to re-enact murder scenes on their own private PlayStations, replete with simulated shooters.

Also, M’s like to receive their facts in short doses! And not too many at one time, please. They want the “big picture,” backed up by the aforementioned technical wizardry. And if you’re a folksy “Matlock” type lawyer who looks for the “knob” to turn on the computer doohickey, Hooo boy, you are toast! The jury might convict you, too, just for wasting their time. A defendant may be facing thirty years in prison, but do NOT keep this jury waiting with unnecessary evidence-rummaging.

Left unaddressed, however, is how this conflicts with the way older jurors are used to receiving their information. Are they befuddled? Muttering “Huh?” “What th-?” “How’s that again?” Feeling slighted that the attorney is pandering to the young ‘uns?

Anyhoo, all of the above speaks to how to present a case, but what about the evidence itself? Hutton says that because M’s “google” everything, they’re less apt to believe a CEO or other top-management level exec who claims cluelessness regarding what skullduggery her underlings were up to, figuring she should’ve searched for, say, “Ways my traitorous employees are undermining my fastidious, ethical and totally above-board running of this company.”

Hutton also makes some pop-psychology sounding pronouncements along the lines that, having grown up in an era of structured “play dates” and playing on teams where everyone received a trophy regardless of achievement, juror M’s prefer to avoid conflict and favor team-building and consensus. Also, they carry particular antipathy to plaintiffs or defendants portrayed as bullies.

Thrown in are a few Pew Research “fun facts” about M’s, such as nearly 2/3 admit to texting while driving. Which means A) About 1/3 of them are lying, and B) A lot of them will be appearing in Traffic Court (or worse) themselves in the near future.

Also, more than 8 in 10 sleep with a cellphone by their bed. But that’s fodder more germane for a sex or relationship consultant.

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