Juror Calling provides multiple benefits for Ohio County Circuit Clerk’s Office

The West Virginia Ohio County Circuit Clerk’s office manages the county’s population of 42,000 in the state’s northern panhandle.  This office is the official record keeper for the Circuit and Family courts and creates and manages jury panels for Magistrate, Circuit, and Municipal Courts.  

Obtaining an adequate number of jurors to complete a jury panel posed a significate challenge. Inadequate attendance hindered a trial’s advancement. Before Ohio Co. Circuit Clerk’s office implemented their notification system, they contacted each juror by phone and spoke with the juror and/or left a voice mail about upcoming dates and times. This was time consuming, and they needed a more efficient method of contacting jurors. 

 

After implementing Juror Calling, they had the capability to notify all jurors on the panel about their dates and times for jury duty appearances with phone calls, text messages, and/or emails with the same message to every juror. After all jurors had been contacted a report was generated noting who was and was not contacted.  

Brenda stated that “the system is very easy to use, training was minimal, and the support has been outstanding” She also said, “that Juror Calling surpassed their original goal of attendance with other benefits”. 

Ohio County WV Courthouse

Courthouse Ohio County West Virginia

Northern Panhandle

Northern Panhandle West Virginia

Total Benefits

1.    Attendance Rate Before Juror Calling – 70% 

       Attendance Rate After Juror Calling    – 98%

2.   Reduced court expenses.

    a. After streamlining the jury notification process, it eliminated the need for staff personnel to call each        juror informing them of trial dates and times. 

    b. Eliminated payments to jurors who inadvertently showed up for a trial that had been cancelled the            evening before. 

3.  They have a notification report to substantiate what jurors were contacted.   

They received favorable feedback from jurors who appreciated the reminder calls and text messages. The judges and attorneys were happy to have enough jurors to litigate. 

Juror Calling has proven to be a time-saving solution by eliminating the time staff had to spend on the phone reminding jurors of dates and times to appear. In fact, the court savings have exceeded the cost of the system.  

Would you like to increase your attendance to 95 % for a system that costs the court zero dollars?  Contact us today for a no-nonsense discussion to see if Juror Calling can benefit your court.  There is an annual fee, but the savings far outweigh the cost. 

Thanks to Ohio County’s Circuit Clerk, Ms. Brenda Miller, for providing the information to create this case study. Brenda has 25 years of experience with the Ohio Circuit Court.

Preparation and Expectation for a High-Profile Jury Case

OJ Simpson high profile jury case

The general expectation for a high-profile jury case is that it will ultimately lead to a trial by jury. While significant pretrial developments can sometimes result in a non-trial resolution of the case, the overall trajectory of the case includes the possibility of a jury trial. Dedicated court personnel will oversee the management of the jury and will keep everyone up to date with appearance dates, materials, guidelines to follow, etc. With high-profile cases, there could be potential need to sequester the jury, people from a different county brought in, or even use an “anonymous jury.”

What is an Anonymous Jury?

  • The highest level of anonymity is achieved when only the court possesses identifiable juror information, with no disclosure to lawyers, parties, the public, or media, and these restrictions on access to juror details are in place indefinitely.
  • A somewhat less stringent approach allows the court and legal counsel access to identifying information, while excluding the parties, public, and media.
  • An even less restrictive measure involves granting access to juror information for counsel and the parties, but not for the public or the press, with these restrictions also extending indefinitely.
  • On the least restrictive end of the spectrum is a scenario where the court, legal counsel, and parties have access to juror information both before and during the trial, while the public and the press gain access only sometime after the verdict is announced.
Martin Shkreli high profile jury case pharma bro
Amber Heard Johnny Depp high-profile trial

Publicity and Other Concerns

In certain situations, ongoing trial publicity or concerns about juror intimidation and tampering can jeopardize the case’s outcome. Trial judges must have a good understanding of their state’s laws when contemplating sequestering a jury to ensure legal compliance. Moreover, the judge and the high-profile case team will handle the following:

  • Evaluating the expenses related to jury sequestration, including law enforcement costs.
  • Coordinating with hotels to make necessary arrangements, such as the removal of televisions.
  • Planning for transportation and meal arrangements.
  • Providing suitable accommodations for jurors with special dietary, health, or religious needs.
  • Ensuring opportunities for jurors’ recreation.
  • Facilitating contact between jurors and their family members.
  • Assuring that the officers responsible for guarding the jurors comprehend their duties and responsibilities.
  • Meeting the basic human needs of jurors, including laundry facilities and opportunities for exercise.
Alex Murdaugh High Profile murder trial with jury

High-profile cases present jurors with unique and highly demanding experiences. These cases are often longer than expected, and jurors are unable to alleviate stress by discussing the case with their family or friends during the trial. Also, jurors may face persistent scrutiny from the media, acquaintances, and loved ones regarding their decisions. It is vital to address these issues to assist jurors in managing their experiences.

  • Jurors are not obligated to engage with the media.
  • If any jurors wish to speak with the media at the trial’s conclusion, arrangements should be made for them to address the media as a collective group.
  • There should be arrangements in place to allow jurors to access their cars without obstruction.
  • The trial judge should consider offering “debriefing sessions” to jurors, allowing them to have informal conversations with a mental health professional to discuss juror stress and any other concerns they may have.
  • If available, jurors will be provided with the court’s brochure on coping with stress related to challenging jury service.
  • Community support resources should be given to those jurors who are experiencing difficulties because of their jury service.

Smart Questions to Ask the Jury Manager

  1. What is the electronic device policy in and out of the courtroom?
  2. If it’s a longer trial, is there an option of issuing regular payments to ease the financial burden?
  3. Will there be counseling available for jurors’ post-trial?
  4. Do jurors have to speak to the media afterwards?
  5. What kind of confirmation should be given to employers?
marker drawn jury box

Research for this article was done with the National Center of State Courts and USCourts.gov article How Courts Care for Jurors in High Profile Cases.

Safe and Simple Text Message Reminder Ideas You Can Use

Text message sms reminders

All businesses and agencies should consider sending reminders to both customers and staff. Timely text message notifications can help prevent missed appointments, deliveries, or encourage people to stay engaged.

Even for agencies that may not have an immediate need for reminders, there are still advantages. Reminders can effectively streamline employee schedules, ensure punctuality in meetings, and offer other organizational benefits.

For efficiently addressing these tasks, text message reminders are the preferred method.

What is a text message reminder?

A text message reminder refers to an alert transmitted to a mobile phone through SMS (Short Message Service). These reminders can be scheduled using a text messaging application and are delivered to the recipient’s text inbox, much like any other SMS message.

The use of text messaging for sending reminders offers numerous advantages compared to alternative communication methods.

Advantages of SMS Reminders

So, why opt for text messaging to dispatch reminders as opposed to email or a dedicated app?

SMS reminders offer five key advantages over other approaches:

  1. Speed – Nearly 98% of text messages are opened within minutes of being sent, whereas a significant 82% of emails go unread. For time-sensitive reminders that cannot afford delay, text messaging proves to be a more reliable means of communication.
  2. Two-way communication – Recipients have the ability to respond directly to reminder texts. This immediate feedback loop facilitates swift responses to urgent notifications and enables the use of specific keywords. Depending on the situation, these keywords might allow recipients to confirm or cancel appointments or request additional information.
  3. Reliability – SMS reminders do not rely on recipients having internet access or a particular app installed to receive the message. As long as they have their mobile phone with them, they will receive the reminder.
  4. Permanence – Text reminders are stored on recipients’ phones alongside other SMS messages, making it effortless for them to revisit the information or attached content later.
  5. Integration – By utilizing a text messaging application with a wide array of app integrations, SMS reminders can seamlessly become an automated component of your operations.

Ideas for Text Message Reminders

  • Appointment Reminders

Text reminders play a crucial role in maintaining the punctuality of your business or agency by issuing alerts for meetings and appointments. Text reminders prove invaluable in avoiding such situations.

Example “Jury Duty for Uppsala County is scheduled for tomorrow 9/28/22. Please arrive by 9:25 AM to be in the courtroom by 9:30 AM.”

  • Follow-Up Reminders

Text message reminders offer a practical means of following up on customer interactions. They prove valuable when you require customer participation. Obtaining feedback stands as a helpful follow-up task following any interaction.

Example “Thank you for participating. Did receiving text message updates make the experience easier? Please respond YES or NO.”

  • Cancellations

Sometimes things don’t go according to plan and it’s necessary to relay a last-minute message. Whether it’s an illness, bad weather, or a power outage, giving notice about a cancellation is a wise move for maintaining a good relationship.

Example “This is the local water company informing our customers our building is closed due to a power outage. We are expected to resume operations tomorrow at 8:00 AM.”

Text message communications represent a valuable asset for expanding or managing your business or agency. When applied internally or externally, they serve to maintain organization, punctuality while communicating relevant information to who need to be notified.

Innovative Ideas- What if Government Agencies Offer a Retail-Like Experience?

Many have engaged with brands through online and mobile platforms, utilizing apps to submit documents like resumes or health insurance cards, find items in stores, redeem coupons, and receive updates on products like their previous purchases.

Whether it’s a visit to a government office for jury duty, the DMV, a health clinic, or a police station, enhancing the agency experience by adopting similar tech strategies that are commonly used in retail can make a significant difference.

It’s no surprise that these retail experiences are now setting the standard for how we interact with other institutions, including schools and even government agencies.

Today, there is an unprecedented influx of federal funding and technological opportunities available to state and local agencies, allowing them to innovate much like other businesses. This innovation not only enhances the experiences of both civilians and staff but also yields positive business outcomes, ranging from reduced operational costs to addressing staffing shortages.

smartphone with retail mobile apps popping up useful for government

What does a retail-like experience involve for government agencies?

Like the retail industry, government agencies can enhance both their service quality and overall business outcomes by harnessing reliable, real-time mobile technology. This enhancement can take various forms:

Mobile Application: Instead of enduring long queues and time-consuming manual form filling, citizens have the option to complete necessary paperwork before visiting the agency in person. The mobile app also facilitates appointment scheduling, or for those who prefer walk-ins, it provides real-time information on facility congestion and estimated wait times.

Automation: Eliminating unnecessary manual tasks through automation not only enhances the civilian experience but also enables staff to work more accurately, efficiently, and be available to foster positive interactions with citizens.

Location Services: Location-based services can be utilized in several ways, such as guiding citizens to the correct room (e.g., jury duty), assisting staff in locating assets (e.g., wheelchair access in a building), optimizing processes for public safety (e.g., contact tracing during COVID-19), and more.

Reliable Connectivity and Wi-Fi: To ensure that these new experiences add value rather than frustration, a dependable internet and network connection are crucial. The system must support multiple users, applications, and devices to prevent disruptions, such as Wi-Fi outages, when citizens are submitting information through the agency app or passing time while waiting for court.

Remote Work Support: In today’s environment, staff increasingly desire and require the ability to work from home to deliver citizen services effectively. This remote work experience should be fully supported by IT systems, mirroring the support staff would receive in the office, without the need for on-site technical interventions or security risks.

The Perks of Embracing Retail-Like Innovation for Government Agencies

Government agencies can benefit from adopting innovative approaches inspired by the retail sector. Some of the advantages include:

Enhanced Efficiency: Personalized technology-driven experiences within government agencies make both staff and citizens more efficient.

Reduced Operational Costs: Maintaining a large staff can be costly, particularly when IT staff must work overtime to address issues like Wi-Fi interruptions or application failures.

Lower Staff Turnover: Attracting and retaining talent is a significant challenge for agencies. An innovative working environment that minimizes troubleshooting and improves citizens’ experiences can enhance job satisfaction and staff retention.

Improved Citizen Satisfaction: Agencies can gather real-time feedback through satisfaction surveys, bypassing the need for citizens to proactively search for review platforms. Maintaining high citizen satisfaction levels and having data to support it are particularly valuable during election periods.

 

By embracing technology and strategies reminiscent of the retail industry, government agencies can streamline operations, enhance citizen experiences, and achieve improved outcomes across various facets of their services.

 

See the original article by Juniper here.

The Meticulous Jury Selection Process for Jury Trials

Have you wondered why you were summoned for jury duty? Here is an eye-opener into the process of picking potential people for jury panels.

In the process of selecting a jury, 6 to 12 individuals for a jury trial are chosen from a larger group known as the jury pool. Names are selected from the voter registration, DMV,  tax office, etc.. The exact number of jurors for the panel can vary based on the state and the nature of the case.

 

  • Civil Cases – In courts with smaller jurisdiction, many are are adopting a standard jury size of six individuals, which can be increased through agreement of both parties.
  • Criminal Cases – Regarding misdemeanor cases, there could be fewer than twelve jurors. Serious criminal cases generally require a panel of twelve jurors.

The traditional requirement for unanimous jury decisions is also evolving. For misdemeanor and civil cases, some states and counties allow verdicts based on agreement from a majority.

In certain situations, alternate jurors are selected to take the place of jurors who might become unable to continue during the trial. These alternate jurors observe the evidence like the other jurors but only participate in deliberations if they replace an original juror.

In numerous jurisdictions, the process of jury selection begins with the court clerk summoning twelve individuals from the jury pool list to occupy seats in the jury box. The judge typically delivers a brief explanation of the case to be tried and asks potential jurors if there are any reasons they cannot fulfill this duty. The judge or attorneys then pose questions to them to determine whether they possess any knowledge of the case or any personal experiences that could lead to bias.

The questioning and scrutiny of potential jurors is referred to as Voir Dire, which translates to ``to speak the truth.`` To serve on a jury trial, this is an essential step in the process.

If either attorney believes that a juror might be biased regarding the case, they can request the judge to dismiss that juror for cause. For example, a juror can be excused if they are closely related to one of the parties involved or to one of the lawyers. Each attorney has the right to request an unlimited number of dismissals for cause. The judge reviews each request and decides whether to grant it or not.

Beyond challenges for cause, each attorney also has a set number of peremptory challenges. These challenges enable an attorney to remove a potential juror without stating a reason. Essentially, they allow attorneys to exclude a juror based on their belief that the juror won’t serve the best interests of their client.

When both parties have mutually agreed about the selected jurors, they are sworn in by the court clerk to carry out their duties in the case. Those not chosen are excused from further involvement. Once selected for a panel, the jurors’ responsibility is to attentively consider the presented evidence without forming premature conclusions. They are instructed by the judge not to discuss the case with outsiders or fellow jurors (until deliberations begin). Sometimes with high profile cases, jurors can be sequestered, meaning to keep them in an isolated location so no outside influence of the case can taint them.

Typically, jurors do not possess the right to directly question witnesses, although some judges permit them to submit written questions for the judge and attorneys to review. (Attorneys retain the right to object to these questions, just as they do with questions posed by attorneys during the trial.) If deemed appropriate, the submitted questions may be posed to the witnesses.

See the original article here.

Fantastic Features of Automated Calling Systems You Absolutely Want

Are you thinking of investing in an automated calling system?

Here are some fantastic features you should definitely have with your automated call system. 

  • Personalized Caller IDs – Once you’ve confirmed a legitimate phone number, you should have the capability to customize your caller ID, ensuring your jurors are informed about the caller’s identity prior to answering.  
  • Court Greetings – Greet each caller with a personalized message with your court’s name.
  • Mass Voice Message Distribution – Utilizing dialing systems, court clerks can initiate bulk calls to an entire roster of contacts (jurors).
  • Call Scheduling – Juror clerks should have the capability to schedule notifications in advance.
  • Voicemail Recognition – When an answering machine or voicemail service answers a call, an automated calling system will play back the message after the beep.
  • Text Messaging Capability – The system should be equipped to dispatch a text message to the designated juror.
  • Real-time Reporting – An active report containing real-time updates of the success, failures, and how the messages were delivered.
  • Location – Juror Clerks should have the capability to create and send notifications from home or other locations outside the office.  

About the Author

Kate Evans, customer service representative for Juror Calling

I’ve Been Summoned to Jury Duty. What Next?

What thoughts come to your mind when you encounter the phrase “jury duty”? For many individuals, “jury duty” evokes a sense of civic responsibility. According to a 2017 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, approximately two-thirds of American adults hold the belief that participating in jury duty is integral to embodying the role of a responsible citizen.

For some individuals, the expression “jury duty” conveys the possibility of experiencing the thrill and intrigue of a captivating trial, reminiscent of those often depicted on television. Meanwhile, for those with a more humorous perspective, the phrase “jury duty” might evoke recollections of the 1995 film titled “Jury Duty,” featuring Pauly Shore.

No matter what gets called to mind, it’s likely that the thought is not based on actual jury experience.

As indicated by the referenced Pew Research survey, approximately 15% of American adults receive a jury summons annually. Among this group, a mere 5% proceed to participate in a jury trial. Extending these figures, it can be inferred that around 0.75% of the adult population ends up serving on a jury.  If you happen to receive a jury summons, here are a few straightforward steps to follow:

  1. Determine the nature of the request. Is the summons pertaining to federal or state court? Is it for petit jury duty or grand jury duty? Based on your answers to these queries, the duration and location of your service will vary.
  2. Respond to the summons. When you receive a jury summons, the most undesirable course of action is to disregard it. Neglecting jury duty can lead to civil or criminal sanctions. Additionally, evading service doesn’t exempt you from your obligation; it simply transfers you to a future service roster. Consistently evading jury duty can result in even more severe consequences from the court. Naturally, if you genuinely possess a valid justification for being unavailable at the designated time, each summoned juror has the option to defer service once without repercussions by contacting the court at least one week prior to the scheduled date.
  3. Inform your employer. You don’t need to be concerned about any work-related consequences while serving on a jury. It’s against the law for your employer to take any adverse actions such as firing you, making you use your vacation, personal, or sick days, implementing scheduling changes that are meant to penalize you, or requiring you to make up for the time spent on jury duty. While it’s not obligatory, it’s suggested that employers consider fully compensating employees who are serving on jury duty. At the very least, the employer is required to cover the jury fee, which amounts to $40 per day for up to three days of jury service.
  4. Show Up. While certain states provide exemptions for active military personnel or civic servants like firefighters, in the state of New York, there are no automatic exclusions or justifications for avoiding jury duty; all eligible individuals are expected to participate. Eligible individuals need to satisfy the following criteria: (1) possess U.S. citizenship, (2) be a minimum of 18 years old, (3) reside in the county of the summons, (4) have the ability to communicate in English, and (5) have no history of felony convictions. Hence, if you meet these qualifications, failure to attend could result in penalties.
  5. Monitor weather conditions. Weather-related emergencies, especially during winter, can impact proceedings. Updates about court closures might also be conveyed through automated phone calls and text messaging systems, such as Juror Calling.
  6. Practice honesty. Even if you attend jury duty, it’s improbable that you’ll be selected to participate in a trial jury. The jury selection procedure, referred to as voir dire, aims to identify jurors who hold any form of bias, whether it’s implicit or explicit, that could result in an unjust trial.
  7. Be Prepared. The courts offers a juror handbook that offers a comprehensive outline of the case’s stages and what jurors can anticipate. Reviewing this guide in advance can help alleviate some of the possible anxiety tied to serving on a jury.
  8. Maintain an unbiased perspective. If you become part of the jury, it’s crucial to attentively follow the proceedings and evaluate the evidence with integrity. Avoid allowing preconceived notions or existing evidence to influence your judgment. The misconception that jurors must be entirely uninformed about case details to serve on a jury is not accurate. Given today’s information accessibility, courts now emphasize the importance of having an open mindset. Nevertheless, jurors are prohibited from conducting external research and should rely on the judge’s guidance. Any misconduct is subject to contempt of court consequences.
  9. Request documentation of your service. Once the trial concludes, inquire about obtaining a proof of service document. This will serve as evidence that you fulfilled your jury duty obligation, which you can present to any doubting employer. Additionally, a proof of service form can be beneficial if you’re summoned again prior to your expected service duration. Generally, individuals who participate in federal or state court jury duty are usually exempt from serving again immediately.

 

Certainly, the intricacies of the crucial role of jury service extend beyond what a basic blog post can cover. If you require more information, you can refer to state-provided guides through a quick online search. This concise introduction should ideally offer assistance when you’re called upon to fulfill your Constitutional responsibility in the future.

Original article- I’ve Been Summoned for Jury Duty. Now What? | Mackenzie Hughes LLP

JuryDuty

Online Jury Duty – Can justice be served virtually?

Is it possible to achieve justice through online jury trials? Psychologists are actively researching that question.

In a seemingly ordinary legal case, an information technology company based in Texas sought a multimillion-dollar settlement from its insurance company for damages caused by hail and wind during a storm. The plaintiff presented their testimony, while the insurer’s legal team called upon engineers as expert witnesses and displayed photographs of the damage as evidence.

However, unlike traditional trials, the jurors participated via Zoom from their homes’ comfort—couches, dining rooms, and home offices. This event, which seems to have been the first virtual summary jury trial in the United States, was even broadcast live on YouTube.

The swift transition to online legal proceedings has brought about several advantages, such as increased convenience and attendance, as well as some disadvantages. It has also raised various unanswered questions, including concerns about the credibility of witnesses. However, the most noticeable impact of this shift to online trials has been on jury selection and participation. Psychologists have sprung into action, delving into existing literature and gathering new evidence to maximize the benefits and minimize the drawbacks of virtual trials.

“Abruptly, we had to engage people through a device they typically use for streaming Netflix and Hulu,” explained Amy Stewart, JD, the founding partner of Stewart Law Group, which represented the insurer in the groundbreaking Texas summary trial. “Considerable thought went into how to produce this television-like show that is, in fact, a jury trial.”

This question, among others, became pressing as the nationwide lockdown compelled legal proceedings to either halt completely or transition to the virtual realm. While some jurisdictions waited for restrictions to ease or chose socially distanced, masked in-person proceedings, many courts embraced the concept of virtual trials. Even the U.S. Supreme Court conducted oral arguments using conference calls.

“This is significant because the legal field is inherently quite conservative,” noted Ken Broda-Bahm, PhD, a senior litigation consultant at ThemeVision, a trial consulting service of Barnes & Thornburg LLP, a Los Angeles-based business law firm, and an expert in legal communication. “Tradition shapes it, so it took something like a pandemic to prompt serious consideration of a substantial departure from tradition.”

“Research indicates that things have deviated from the norm,” stated Amy-May Leach, PhD, a professor of forensic psychology at Ontario Tech University who led a review of psychological research concerning COVID-19’s impact on the courtroom. “Under these protective measures, the delivery of justice differs from how it was before COVID-19.”

Balancing Advantages and Obstacles As it became apparent that the COVID-19 pandemic would persist beyond a few months, courts nationwide, like many other industries, sought ways to transition their operations online. For certain legal matters, such as motion hearings and status conferences involving only judges, attorneys, and clients, the shift was relatively straightforward.

When witnesses are involved, things become more complex, but even these types of hearings were conducted virtually during the pandemic with moderate success. The central question, however, revolved around whether fully-fledged jury trials could effectively take place in the online arena. Could attorneys effectively convey their arguments through a computer screen? Would remote jurors be easily distracted by roommates, pets, or social media while tuning in from home? And perhaps most crucially, would justice truly be served?

While the extent of adoption varied, courts have conducted numerous civil jury trials remotely since the pandemic’s onset. With both parties’ consent, some criminal trials also proceeded online. Nonetheless, a major concern in such cases is whether virtual hearings adequately uphold defendants’ constitutional rights, explained Dennis Stolle, JD, PhD, APA’s senior director of applied psychology and a former legal consultant with over two decades of experience. The Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause safeguards the right to cross-examine witnesses during a criminal trial—does video conferencing truly uphold that right?

 

Courtrooms often exude an air of grandeur and formality, adorned with wood paneling, the presence of the American flag, and vigilant security personnel. However, might behavior and decision-making differ when placed in more familiar surroundings—say, the living room or break room at work?

“When individuals step into a courthouse, they may appear casual,” explained Judge Richard Young from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. “But upon encountering the courtroom, complete with jury chairs, the judge’s bench, and the judge donning a black robe, they quickly recognize the gravity of the setting and adjust their behavior accordingly.”

In spite of lingering uncertainties, virtual trials have presented considerable advantages, which is why they continue to be employed and are likely to persist in some form, according to Stolle. The convenience and cost-saving merits of participating in a trial remotely should not be underestimated. Jurors, witnesses, legal counsel, and clients can all join proceedings without the need for extensive travel time and expenses related to transportation, childcare, or missed work. Furthermore, courts can operate with reduced staffing and space requirements while managing the same workload. Reports from Texas and Arizona reveal that virtual trials achieved higher attendance rates, indicating their potential to enhance access to justice (COVID-19 Continuity of Court Operations During a Public Health Emergency Workgroup, Post-Pandemic Recommendations, Arizona Supreme Court, 2021; The Use of Remote Hearings in Texas State Courts: The Impact on Judicial Workload, National Center for State Courts, 2021).

However, virtual trial participants need access to functioning computers and reliable internet connections. Courts have encountered challenges such as technological training and security concerns. To address these barriers while maintaining safety protocols, some courts have implemented individual kiosks for jurors at the courthouse, though this requires substantial resources and staffing.

“In some respects, we’re trading one set of potential obstacles for another,” noted Jennifer Robbennolt, JD, PhD, a professor of law and psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and co-director of the Illinois College of Law program on law, behavior, and social science.

Adapting Trials to the Digital Realm While psychological science has long provided insights into court trial dynamics, studying online trials is a novel endeavor that will take time. Laboratory experiments and simulated virtual trials are currently underway, but much of the work conducted by psychologists since the pandemic’s onset involves reviewing and interpreting pertinent literature on attention, memory, persuasion, human-computer interaction, and more.

A critical question for law firms is whether different strategies are necessary to sway a virtual jury. Research on forming impressions suggests that likability and perceived intelligence decrease in an online setting. Establishing rapport becomes more challenging due to fewer nonverbal cues (Fullwood, C., Applied Ergonomics, Vol. 38, No. 3, 2007; Basch, J. M., et al., Journal of Business and Psychology, Vol. 36, 2021). Thus, optimizing elements like lighting, framing, and camera angles becomes crucial, as noted by Broda-Bahm, who also sits on the advisory board of the Online Courtroom Project.

For instance, filming someone at eye level increases their perceived trustworthiness compared to filming from above or below (Baranowski, A. M., & Hecht, H., Empirical Studies of the Arts, Vol. 36, No. 1, 2017). Proper lighting from the front and chest-up framing can enhance jurors’ ability to see and hear testimony and oral arguments. However, while seeing is not always believing, credibility assessments during online trials concern lawyers. Some worry about distinguishing lies from the truth due to fewer nonverbal cues, particularly when cross-examining witnesses.

Psychological research suggests that there is little cause for concern. People appear to be just as adept at detecting deception in an online or audio-only context as they are in face-to-face interactions. In fact, people may over-rely on nonverbal cues when they’re available to form judgments. These findings held steady in a study comparing mock jurors’ credibility judgments of expert witnesses in person, on video, and via audio. The researchers discovered no variance in perceptions of credibility or effectiveness across these settings (Jones, A. C. T., et al., Criminal Justice and Behavior, 2022).

However, it has been observed that individuals might perceive witness testimony differently online compared to in-person. Research on telecommunication suggests that recognizing emotions via video calls, especially with lag or freezing, is more challenging (Schirmer, A., & Adolphs, R., Trends in Cognitive Science, Vol. 21, No. 3, 2017; Bruce, V., Interacting with Computers, Vol. 8, No. 2, 1996). Studies involving witnesses appearing remotely in asylum hearings indicate that their effectiveness in presenting their cases might be diminished compared to in-person appearances, possibly due to receiving less empathy (Bandes, S. A., & Feigenson, N., 51 Southwestern Law Review 20, 2021). These findings aren’t universal, as pointed out by Broda-Bahm, suggesting that empathy levels and emotion detection might vary based on the trial’s context.

Sustaining attention is also a concern in virtual settings, notes Robbennolt. Many individuals who experienced remote work during the pandemic are familiar with the sensation of “Zoom fatigue” after prolonged video meetings.

“Early on, we heard stories about jurors dozing off, cooking, exercising, and engaging in other activities during trials, actions they wouldn’t take in a physical courtroom,” revealed psychologist Dan Wolfe, JD, PhD, a senior director of jury consulting at Magna Legal Services, who studies virtual judicial proceedings through mock trials and other methodologies.

While more data is necessary to address virtual trials specifically, research indicates that recalling witness testimony online is on par with in-person recall (Landström, S., et al., Applied Cognitive Psychology, Vol. 19, No. 7, 2005). Nevertheless, memory could be weaker among those unfamiliar with the technology they’re using, according to Leach.

“For decision-makers, they can remember witness testimony equally well, whether it’s presented in person or online,” asserted Leach. Another memory-related benefit: Remote trials can often start sooner than in-person trials, potentially mitigating memory decay among witnesses over time (Lacy, J. W., & Stark, C. E. L., Nature Reviews Neuroscience, Vol. 14, No. 9, 2013).

Perhaps the most intricate aspect of an online trial is the jury’s deliberation. Some subtleties of group interaction—the tilt of a head, the shifting of a chair—are inevitably lost in the virtual sphere, as highlighted by Stolle. However, in a series of mock virtual jury trials organized by Broda-Bahm and his firm, online deliberations exhibited surprising similarity to their in-person counterparts. A potential upside emerged: Dominant jurors were less common, and participants tended to engage in more purposeful turn-taking, fostering more thoughtful and coherent deliberations, noted Broda-Bahm.

A qualitative study by psychologist Valerie Hans, PhD, a Cornell Law School professor, which observed virtual juries during the pandemic, suggests that virtual juries are at least as diverse as traditional ones. A mock trial involving 25 jurors surveyed by Hans indicated that virtual and in-person jury deliberations mostly showed no substantial difference (DePaul Law Review, Vol. 71, 2021).

Despite no variance in the diversity of jurors in virtual trials, achieving equal participation remains an open question. Some findings cast doubt on whether online meetings genuinely promote equality, with reports suggesting reduced participation among women and people of color. Thus, the verdict is still out, so to speak.

“Whether women and people of color participate more or less during online deliberations is an unanswered question,” Stolle observed. “We can speculate, but what we truly need is direct psychological research addressing this question.”

What Lies Ahead?

As protective restrictions ease, court responses continue to vary by jurisdiction. For instance, in Texas, Travis County regularly conducts virtual trials for minor matters with the consent of all parties. In contrast, Dallas and Harris Counties operate entirely in person, while Collin County adopts a hybrid approach. Hybrid trials involve some trial segments conducted online and others in person. For example, in several states, jury selection—traditionally involving convening over 100 individuals for multiple days—continues to occur remotely.

Yet, numerous questions remain unanswered. Nearly every inquiry concerning virtual judicial proceedings inherently raises another question: Could shifting a trial online influence its outcome?

This is a challenge to study, in part because random assignments are difficult outside of mock trials and controlled laboratory settings. Nevertheless, some data suggest that outcomes might indeed be affected. One study proposes that remote defendants often face higher bail amounts (Diamond, S. S., et al., Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 100, No. 3, 2010). Attorneys who exclusively relied on videoconferencing for client consultation during the pandemic also reported challenges in the plea-bargaining process (Daftary-Kapur, T., et al., Law and Human Behavior, Vol. 45, No. 2, 2021).

“As we move forward, psychologists can play a crucial role in evaluating not only the differences between in-person and online outcomes, but also parties’ perceptions of these differences in terms of procedural fairness,” suggested psychologist Donna Shestowsky, JD, PhD, a law professor at the University of California, Davis. Shestowsky is collaborating with the Pew Charitable Trusts to assess online platforms for mediations and negotiations, investigating questions about procedural justice.

Other psychologists are delving deeper into the diversity of jury pools in virtual trials, how expert witnesses, fact witnesses, and crime victims are perceived online, and whether varied participant modes (in person, video, audio-only) result in psychological implications. Addressing these inquiries, among others, is crucial to ensuring that virtual legal proceedings maintain fairness comparable to traditional methods.

“Many advantages exist, and I understand the desire to continue, but research must catch up,” cautioned Leach. “It can be challenging to roll back procedures once they’ve been in place for an extended period, so I encourage people to make measured decisions moving forward.”

Original article by Zara Abrams

Can justice be served online? (apa.org)

Confession of a Jury- Insightful surveys about those that receive jury summons

Since the 17th century, Americans have participated in jury service, a tradition introduced by the Pilgrims, which has evolved over time. Although jury duty is now obligatory, defendants no longer possess the privilege of selecting their fellow citizens who will decide their legal fate. Serving on a jury is aptly named a “duty” because summoned individuals are required to appear, even though the actual percentage of those who serve from the summonses is less than 5%. Those who do receive a jury summons and serve often find it challenging to avoid this responsibility, although some attempt to do so.

To gain insights into the impact of jury duty on Americans, we conducted a survey involving 1,184 individuals who had been summoned or served. This survey aims to uncover sentiments toward jury duty, whether political affiliations influence biases and perspectives, and the post-trial stress experienced by jurors.

How Do Americans Perceive Jury Duty?

One effective approach to engaging the populace in governmental matters is by mandating certain civic activities, such as voting and jury duty. According to our research, a notable 60.2% of Americans support the idea of compulsory jury duty for all citizens. Among those who disagreed with this notion, Independents (44.9%) exhibited the strongest aversion to the concept of mandatory jury duty.

Perception of Jury Duty

Survey of the Perception of Jury Duty

In recent times, activists have been vocal in their calls for a more equitable justice system, particularly when a person of color’s fate hangs in the balance of a 12-member jury. Nevertheless, the majority of participants expressed confidence in the fairness of the jury system when determining the outcomes of criminal trials. Fewer than 11% of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans held a contrary opinion. When comparing trial by jury to trial by judge, the sentiment was almost evenly divided, with 54.8% showing a preference for a trial by jury.

Before individuals are chosen to serve on a jury, they must undergo a screening process to assess their suitability. Most respondents in our study appear to be law-abiding citizens who are deserving of this honor. Surprisingly, over 80% of those surveyed would even go against their personal moral beliefs to vote in alignment with the law, demonstrating a strong commitment to the legal process.

Regarding evading jury duty through dishonest means, our study revealed that nearly 10% of people resorted to lying. Among those who fabricated excuses, 8.4% did so out of a belief that their reason would not be deemed legitimate by a judge. However, it’s worth noting that needing sleep is not considered a valid excuse to miss jury duty, as highlighted by a Florida case in which a 21-year-old man received a penalty of 10 days in jail, a fine, and 150 hours of community service for oversleeping and missing a day of jury service.

What types of falsehoods do individuals resort to when avoiding jury duty? The most common lie told by those summoned is, “I have a bias that would impact the case,” accounting for 31% of responses. Following closely behind are medical issues at 24.1%, and travel plans at 17.2%. Understanding why people choose to lie provides valuable insights. It becomes clear that jury duty doesn’t offer significant financial incentives, with 48.2% citing financial inconvenience as the primary reason for attempting to evade service.

Our investigation uncovered other legitimate concerns as well. For instance, 19.3% feared potential repercussions from their employer, 15.7% lacked access to childcare for the trial’s duration, and 2.4% faced religious responsibilities that interfered with serving as a juror.

Personal biases play a significant role in the decision-making of jurors. Our study revealed that 29% of jurors formed initial judgments about the plaintiff and defendant based on their first appearances. This highlights the importance of first impressions in the context of jury proceedings.

When we examined how the age of a juror impacts their trial processing, intriguing trends emerged. Individuals in their 20s reached a verdict after observing just 61% of the case, demonstrating a relatively swift decision-making approach. In contrast, those aged 50 and older exhibited greater patience, waiting until they had absorbed 80% of the trial before forming a conclusion. Additionally, our findings suggest that the older a person is, the more likely they are to comprehend the presented information. Jurors in their 20s reported understanding less than three-quarters of the trial, whereas participants aged 50 and older claimed an impressive 93% level of understanding.

The question of whether the jury system harbors biases is a topic reminiscent of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a piece of literature that raises concerns about the impartiality of a system reliant on human judgment. While clear biases were evident in Lee’s fictional 1930s town, identifying such biases in real-life scenarios is not always straightforward.

Inquiring about the occurrence of discriminatory thoughts during the trial, our survey revealed that 56.6% of Democrats responded affirmatively, compared to 39.7% of Republicans. The process of recognizing one’s own biases is undoubtedly challenging; could it be that Democrats exhibit greater awareness of bias or a greater willingness to acknowledge it than their Republican counterparts?

What Transpires for Jurors After Their Service?

While some trials conclude swiftly, others are arduous and extend over several months. Regardless of the trial’s nature, jurors bear the responsibility of thoroughly digesting an extensive body of evidence to facilitate the formulation of a fair judgment. This task places a significant burden on them.

The burden of passing judgment on someone’s actions can weigh heavily on some individuals even after the fact. Our research revealed that 26% of jurors grappled with negative emotions following their duty, with those who served on criminal trial juries being 7% more likely to experience such feelings. Among the range of negative emotions encountered by jurors in our study, anxiety emerged as the most prevalent, with nearly 50% reporting high levels of anxiety. Other emotions included disappointment, sadness, guilt, anger, fear, and shame. Strikingly, these negative emotions linked to jury duty persisted for an average of two years.

While the trial by jury system in the United States is not flawless, our findings highlight some imperfections: individuals lying to avoid serving when summoned, and jurors acknowledging feelings of bias during the trial. Despite these issues, most Americans take their civic duty seriously, with a significant number advocating for mandatory jury service. It’s worth noting that contributing to American society takes various forms, with jury duty being just one way. Serving as a bar-certified lawyer is another crucial path. BarPrepHero aids law students in preparing for the bar examination, offering a comprehensive review that covers the MBE, MEE, and MPT to ensure thorough preparation for the two-day test.

Methodology and Limitations:

To gather insights into opinions and thoughts about jury duty, we surveyed 1,184 American citizens. We further questioned respondents who had been summoned and/or served jury duty regarding their experiences. Demographically, 51.9% of our respondents identified as female, 47.8% as male, and the remaining 0.3% identified as pansexual, nonbinary, or female-to-male transgender. The average age of respondents was 40, with a standard deviation of 12.7 year.

 

 

See the original article by John Keller.

Confessions of a Juror: How Jury Duty Impacts Americans By John Keller, Legal Advisor, U.S. Lawdesk LLC, CEO

Why do we have jury duty? Were you sent a jury summons?

Were you summoned for jury duty? Here's a brief history of such an important part of the United States judicial system.

In anticipation of his first jury service with Jeremy Siegel, co-host of GBH’s Morning Edition, engaged in a discussion with legal analyst and Northeastern law professor Daniel Medwed about the historical and contemporary practices of jury trials. In the United States, the standard practice of jury selection is a randomized pool and those selected are sent a jury summons. The courts must give a jury notification of upcoming trials and it can be tedious but its necessary.

Actual Jury Summons photo

Jeremy Siegel: So, Daniel, in two days, I am going to be part of a jury, potentially part of a jury. I have to report for jury duty, which is something I’ve actually never had to do in my whole life.

Daniel Medwed: Is this congratulations or condolences?

Siegel: Yeah, I think more condolences in my case. I’m not actually super excited to potentially be doing jury duty.

Medwed: To fulfill your civic duty, Jeremy.

Siegel: Well, that’s true. I guess I will be fulfilling my civic duty as an American citizen. So tell me a little bit about how that became a thing. Why is it a thing that I have to do jury duties? What’s the background and the history of how this became a thing in America?

Medwed: Sure. Like so many aspects of our legal system, we inherited it from Ye Olde England, and the first juries in England date back to the Middle Ages. They were called juries of recognition, and they were used in land disputes. Members of the community would come forward to recognize, from memory, who had received title to particular parcels of land from William the Conqueror. That’s sort of the origin. And then by the 1400s, it evolved, and it looked a little bit like it looks today, where juries serve as finders of fact. They collect evidence, they evaluate the evidence, they weigh the credibility of witnesses, and ultimately render a verdict. So the right to a jury trial now in the United States is enshrined in our Constitution. For criminal cases, it’s in the Sixth Amendment and for civil cases, where a certain amount of money is at stake, it’s in the Seventh Amendment.

“The first juries in England date back to the Middle Ages. They were called juries of recognition, and they were used in land disputes.”

-GBH NEWS LEGAL ANALYST DANIEL MEDWED

Siegel: So I’m hearing that I have England and William the Conqueror to thank for my jury duty.

Medwed: Exactly. It’s a straight throughline from William the Conqueror to Jeremy Siegel.

Siegel: So I know that juries aren’t the case for every criminal situation. Someone can waive their right to a jury and try their luck before a judge too, right? Why would that be the case?

Medwed: On the one hand, the rule of the road essentially is: If you’re in a criminal case in particular, and the facts are really gory, really gruesome, a defendant might opt for a judge — it’s called a bench trial — instead of a jury, based on the idea that the judge has sort of seen it all and won’t be swayed by the gruesome, gory details of the case; can be more objective and dispassionate; and dispense justice in a way that might be more measured than a jury, that could be inflamed by these facts. On the other hand, that calculus differs depending on the orientation of the judge. If the judge is really punitive, really tough on crime, it might be a very different equation. And you might want to go with a jury even in a case with bad facts, because all you have to do is get one juror on your side to vote to acquit. Then you can hang the jury and get a mistrial.

Siegel: Okay. So that was actually going to be the next thing that I asked about here: in order to be convicted of something, or to be acquitted, you need everybody in the jury to be on the same page?

Medwed: Yes. This idea of jury unanimity in criminal cases is an interesting one. And actually the Supreme Court only resolved it definitively relatively recently, in a 2020 case called Ramos. So here’s the background: In Ye Olde England, common law unanimity was the norm. You had to have unanimous juries in criminal cases. And there’s an instance of one of these from like 1367. And this idea of unanimity crossed the pond, and it’s a part of federal law and virtually every state law. However — and this is what sort of interesting — there is nothing in the Constitution explicitly that talked about unanimous juries in criminal cases. So Louisiana and Oregon were outliers for a long time, and they allowed people to be convicted based on votes that are 10-to-2 or 11-to-1 in favor of conviction. They both backtracked.

Those states have backtracked from that in part because the Supreme Court, in that 2020 case I mentioned, finally said, hey, you know what, the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial under our federal Constitution implicitly carries a requirement that the jury verdict be unanimous. And therefore, we should have unanimous juries in the states as well. That hasn’t stopped Florida and Governor Ron DeSantis from making waves about going back to non-unanimous juries. But I think as a matter of constitutional law, it seems like unanimous juries are here to stay in the criminal case context, at least.

Siegel: So, Daniel, as you were talking about people coming to a consensus, everybody agreeing on something in order for there to be an acquittal or a conviction, it made me think about how difficult that could be for a bunch of ordinary citizens performing their civic duty, and all of the debate that happens behind closed doors between jurors. I guess I’m curious about why someone who gets caught up in the criminal justice system for one reason or another and ends up in a jury trial — why should we trust the system, at the end of the day?

 

“You get 12 different people from our very diverse country, bring them all together in a room to talk about facts, and essentially a good result will occur. But the practice is much uglier than that, right?”

-GBH NEWS LEGAL ANALYST DANIEL MEDWED

Medwed: I’m not so sure we do. So here’s the theory is this, and then we’ll talk about the practice. The theory is that you bring 12 fair and impartial citizens who represent a cross-section of the community harmed by the crime, usually within the county, the jurisdiction. If you bring them all together, they’ll bring their disparate experiences to the fore, and through a full and frank conversation in the deliberation room, without outside influence, without outside supervision, they’ll arrive at a just outcome. That’s sort of the theory. You get 12 different people from our very diverse country, bring them all together in a room to talk about facts, and essentially a good result will occur.

But the practice is much uglier than that, right? Because there are a lot of tools in the tool chest of prosecutors in particular to shape the jury in a particular way. There’s a very sordid history in the United States of prosecutors using what are called peremptory challenges — you can challenge jurors for no articulable reason in criminal cases — that they were challenged based on racial bias. For instance, in a case involving a Black defendant, prosecutors would often try to craft all-white juries. There have been Supreme Court cases that have said you can’t do this, but there are a lot of pernicious activities that could be done. Also, another reality of this, of course, is that 12 people in a room won’t necessarily all have their voices heard and respected equally. There might be one person who dominates the conversation. It’s sort of unclear what the dynamics of the deliberation room might be. So I’m actually pretty skeptical about whether juries work or not.

Siegel: So real quick, Daniel, before I let you go, let’s say someone, after having this conversation wasn’t too excited about their jury duty coming up in a couple days. And in theory, let’s say you wanted to get off of a jury. How would you go about doing that?

Medwed: I can’t imagine anyone would want to do that. Certainly nobody that I know and talk with at least weekly would ever want to do that. I think, Jeremy, essentially you can be excused what’s called for cause, if there is some cause. If you have a conflict of interest, you have a financial stake in the case, you know one of the parties — that’s sort of easy. You’re going to get bounced for that. If you have a clear time commitment that makes it impossible for you to serve, a judge might actually allow you to leave as well. If you express misgivings about the case, for instance, you say, ‘I could never convict somebody. I don’t believe in criminal justice. I don’t believe in prison.’ That might also be a basis for getting a bounced. Unfortunately, Jeremy, being the co-host of Morning Edition isn’t necessarily an excuse because you have Paris who can help out. You are indispensable to us, but, you know, possibly you could have one day off or one week off to do your civic duty.

See the original interview here.

Jeremy Siegel is co-host of Morning Edition at GBH News.