Dr. Ken Manges PhD | Forensic Psychologist |Expert Witness
Voir Dire Theme Development Fact Sheet
In order for people to make sense of the world around them, they often use stories to organize events and give them structure. Jurors in a courtroom are not any different, for the attitudes and experiences they bring with them play a role in determining the types of stories they construct to better understand the facts and arguments presented at trial.
Differences in jurors’ reactions to a case stem from preexisting differences among the jurors.
From the jurors’ point of view, trials are organized around story telling.
Jurors seek to organize the information into a story of what they think happened.
Jurors create stories using:
- Trial evidence
- World knowledge about similar events
- Knowledge about story structure
Both civil and criminal lawyers may best serve their clients by representing their case in the form of a story. Jurors may in turn rely on these stories to make sense of what they hear at trial.
Your theme must be easily understood and believable to the jury
A story model proposes that jurors follow 3 steps:
- Evaluating the evidence and constructing a story or stories to make sense of the evidence
- Learning the attributes of the different verdict choices
- Reaching a verdict by deciding which verdict category described by the court renders the best match with the constructed story
Verdicts are often made in favor of the side whose presentation of evidence most closely resembled the jurors’ story sequence.
Individual juror characteristics, attitudes, and personality may not directly impact verdicts; however, they made different stories more or less believable to a given juror (Huntley, & Costanzo, 2003).
Verdicts are based on analysis of lawyers’ stories as supported by the evidence and testimony.
Evidence is one of the more important factors in determining the outcome of a case. The more facts and evidence you have to use for themes, the better able you will be to present a compelling story.
Once plaintiff and defense prototypes for a case are understood, you can compare the facts and evidence of your case to model stories. If the evidence in your case will prevent you from presenting a strong model defense story, you may want to avoid litigation through settlement.
A case should be more visible the closer you can argue a story model supporting your position, and the more model themes you have, the more persuasive the story will be to the jury.
The lawyer who can tell the most believable story using the case facts in full context will make the most sense to the jury thereby becoming more persuasive.
Stories you provide serve a descriptive and analytic function in juror decision making.
Stories help jurors’ decision making by:
- Isolating the central act of the story
- Connecting the elements of the story to the central act
- Providing a process for evaluating the story for consistency and completeness.
For References used in this fact sheet, please contact Dr. Manges & Associates, Inc. at 513.784.1333.
Dr. Kenneth Manges, is a Forensic Psychologist and vocational expert who offers consultation and comprehensive evaluations across the United States. His analyses have been recognized for their clarity and scientific rigor. He offers reasonably certain opinions about the psychological impact of physical injury or emotional trauma as they effect earning capacity and the impact of loss on future work and quality of life. Well regarded in the litigation arena, he is a trusted and respected authority and offers evaluations that have been consistently upheld in both state and federal courts.