Many attorneys ask where their jury research should be conducted. The answer is, “in the trial venue.” The reasons jury research should be conducted in the trial venue are: jurors’ attitudes and life experiences vary from venue to venue; the salient issues in the case are different depending on the composition of the jury; and the image of local parties must be evaluated in order to fully understand the case. The only reasons for conducting jury research outside the trial venue are when the publicity about the case is extremely high and/or when the population is small enough to fear contamination of the jury pool. In these rare instances, a “matched venue” must be selected so that research participants who closely approximate the actual jury pool can be utilized.
Jury composition does impact the case outcome.
Magnus Research Consultants has always had a strong philosophy regarding the importance of conducting focus groups, mock trials, and community attitude surveys in the actual trial venue. We have turned down countless requests by attorneys to engage in “convenience sampling,” including substituting a case from one venue after another case in a different venue settled prior to conducting jury research. Magnus’ Director of Research, Dr. Melissa Pigott, is an expert in research methodology and, based on decades of experience as a social psychologist, knows people, including jurors, are vastly different from venue to venue.
There are two notable exceptions, however, to the requirement that jury research is conducted in the actual trial venue. The first exception is when the actual trial venue is sparsely populated. In venues with small populations, there is a risk of contaminating the jury pool via jury research, particularly large scale attitude surveys, that involves numerous participants who could be summoned for jury duty. The second exception, often related to the first, is when the case is of extremely high publicity, such that customary protections of the client’s confidentiality cannot be guaranteed. If either of these conditions exist, it is appropriate to conduct the jury research outside the trial venue, as long as there are safeguards in place to ensure the research venue is a demographic match to the actual venue. Strong steps must be taken by the jury consultant to ensure the validity of the sampling method and to avoid convenience sampling at all costs.
Contact the experts at Magnus to schedule your jury research. We work in all trial venues across the U.S.A.