Laptop computers, tablets, smartphones, applications and the internet are modern-day necessities. These amazing devices have fundamentally changed the way our society operates. Information is everywhere and immediately available. The benefits are infinite.
However, technology has developed at a tremendous rate drastically impacting the way we work, study, conduct our lives and receive information. With this background, lawyers must be aware of the effects the age of technology has on jurors, who remain the heart of our system of justice.
I am guilty of falling victim to “technology distraction.” I receive dozens of emails and text messages every day. Each email, text message (and now push notifications) can be distractions to work being performed. I have spent considerable time working on implementing systems in my practice to minimize technology distraction. As these distractions are reduced, my ability to focus and work efficiently have increased dramatically. The question becomes: how has the age of technology affected our jurors?
The people who make up our juries are exposed to the same technological advances as the rest of us. Do not make the mistake of believing technology has only affected the young. I know people in their 70s who regularly use Facebook. I have clients in their late 80s who communicate effortlessly through email. Even the president of the United States, now 70 years old, is an avid Twitter user. People today communicate and receive information in bite-sized, rapid and concise methods. Jurors, like myself and others, are victims to the same technology distractions we all face in our personal and professional lives.
The jury trial, however, presents a unique situation where jurors are removed from the everyday technology distractions. Jurors are forced into a world with no cell phones, emails, news applications, push notifications, etc. The jurors are asked to pay attention for hours at a time to testimony, evidence and argument (with some short breaks). Consider how the jurors must feel being disconnected from their normal technology-filled world. Jury trials present an exceptional time where you as the trial lawyer have the jurors undivided (technology-distraction free) attention.
By remembering that jurors have been removed from the everyday nonstop influx of text messages, emails, push notifications and so on, you have an opportunity to present a case to a distraction-free group of people. You have the ability to make the experience enjoyable for the jury and create a lasting impression of our modern civil and criminal justice system. The next question is: do you want the jurors thinking about the break to see what email or text message awaits? Or do you want your jurors invested in your trial?
Tools of Technology
In my trials, I have been fortunate to watch jurors actively listen to testimony and pay careful attention to documents being presented and exhibits admitted into evidence. Why? Because I recognize that technology in the courtroom is critical. Outside the courtroom, everyone receives information today through media such as television, internet, text message, FaceTime, Skype, Instagram, Snapchat, and the list goes on. Lawyers must be prepared to provide the jury with information in a similar fashion.
Many lawyers, including myself, still use poster board demonstrative exhibits along with many other traditional tools of the courtroom. Do not get me wrong, these are great ways to effectively communicate to a jury. However, with modern technology and a modern jury, consider taking your trial presentations to the next level. For instance, try using a digital image of the demonstrative exhibit with a projector and screen. Include software that enables you to zoom in and out and otherwise manipulate the exhibit in real time.
In a recent products liability case, my team incorporated the following technology: testimony via Skype, PowerPoint presentations, digitized video of advertising and historical news reports, digital demonstrative exhibits, video depositions for fact witnesses and corporate representatives, and animation; all of which were integrated throughout the trial during opening statement, examinations and closing argument. The jurors’ attention was impeccable, and the multimillion dollar verdict on behalf of my client spoke loudly of the technologically advanced presentation.
Without the use of their cellular phones and other smart devices, you have the jurors’ undivided attention. Make their jury service experience memorable with a concise and clear presentation in the language the jurors speak fluently: technology.