By Alexis Knutson
My relationship with post trial juror interviews is complicated. On one hand, this service is one of my favorite that we provide as trial consultants. I speak to the jurors when they are fresh from their duty, still buzzing from the excitement of deliberations and ready to talk about the experience they haven’t been allowed to talk about for days, weeks, or even months. On the other hand, there are some aspects of this type of research that can lead to unnecessary frustrations if not handled proactively. Following the five steps below will help to ensure your next post trial juror interviews go off without a hitch.
- Ask early if interviews will be allowed. If there is uncertainty in the laws or court rules regarding post trial juror interviews, you (or more likely your client) should ask before the end of trial if the judge will allow them. In some jurisdictions, it’s never allowed. In others, it’s up to the judge’s discretion whether or not they will allow interviews. It’s best to know before the end of trial whether this will be an option if it’s something your client is interested in pursuing. If your client doesn’t request post trial interviews until after the trial is complete, your client should confirm that contact isn’t prohibited before you begin asking jurors questions.
- Get jurors’ contact information. A lot of time can be spent searching for jurors through social media, internet searches, and other databases for contact information. And even if you find a person by the juror’s name, the information isn’t guaranteed to be accurate. Time spent searching for jurors can become an unnecessary headache for both you and your client. If the judge will allow it, approach jurors before they leave the courtroom to get accurate names, telephone numbers, and email addresses, as well as their preferred method of contact.
- Contact jurors as soon as possible. It doesn’t take long before the novelty of having served on a jury wears off and jurors get back to their everyday lives. If you wait too long, it’s easy to miss the window of opportunity to get them to agree to an interview – and in this case, “too long” can be mere days after a verdict is reached. Be prepared with interview questions before trial ends so you can dive into interviews right away. If your client does not ask for juror interviews until after the trial, work quickly to create interview questions and start contacting jurors as soon as possible following delivery of the verdict.
- Weigh costs and benefits of in-person versus phone interviews. There are pros and cons to in-person versus phone interviews with jurors. If jurors are willing, meeting face-to-face on the same day the verdict is delivered, or the day after, is a great time to catch them while interest is at its highest. They will be most likely to offer specific details about their deliberations, and if that’s what your client aims to get from interviews, time is of the essence. However, phone interviews are often most convenient for jurors, and allowing a day or two to process what’s happened in trial may give jurors more insight into the big picture of their experience.
- Reference the ASTC Professional Code. Practice Area E of the ASTC Professional Code provides guidelines for conducting post trial juror interviews. If you haven’t already, review these standards early to ensure you’re complying with applicable laws and meeting your duty to both your clients and the jurors.
Alexis Knutson, M.A., is an Associate Trial Consultant with Tsongas Litigation Consulting. Her work focuses on assisting counsel in devising comprehensive trial strategy through case consultation and pre-trial research. Alexis received her Master’s Degree in Psychological Science with a focus in law from University of Colorado - Colorado Springs, where her research focused on attorney use of small group research to inform settlement decisions and juror internet use during trial. She is a member of ASTC and Chair of the Professional Education Committee. She can be reached at email@example.com.