Instructions from the jury

In all likelihood, my jury duty ended today. We heard closing arguments from the three lawyers (one for the plaintiff, and one each for the two defendants), then the rebuttal from the plaintiff’s lawyer and finally the judge’s instructions. That took nearly four hours in the court (and of course there was both a morning break and a lunch break as well).

As the alternate juror, I was then thanked by the judge and dismissed. My fellow jurors will come back on Monday to deliberate and render a verdict. If one of them falls ill, I’ll be called back. So I still won’t comment on the specifics of this case. But I thought I’d offer this one juror’s advice to lawyers.

1. Don’t be too pleased with yourself. One of the lawyers in my case was very good, but he made a point of showing he knew it. That’s just annoying.

2. Don’t mimic a witness, particularly in a demeaning way. One lawyer, in his closing argument, chose to speak a witness’ words in a whining voice, presumably to cast doubt on the witness’ veracity. If people make fools of themselves, fine. If you make fools of them, wrong.

3. One of the parties to the case had a habit of making significant glances to the jury at various parts of the trial. Raised eyebrows, rolling eyes, that sort of thing. Not good.

4. Get organized. One lawyer in particular seemed to lose his way in every presentation he made. If he can’t keep track of his argument, does he really think the jury will follow it?

5. Brevity is the soul of (fill in the blank). We heard three closing arguments. They took by my estimate 60 minutes, 90 minutes and 10 minutes. Guess which one the jury felt most happy about.

It could well be the verdict in this trial has nothing to do with these five points. None of my strictures really affect the law or the evidence in a particular case. But they certainly form part of getting a jury on your side.

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