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The jury watches everything the client and the lawyer do

Apr 07, 2009 The jury watches everything the client and the lawyer do

Courthouses and courthouse procedures expose parties and their lawyers to being seen and heard by the juries doing things they do not intend to be seen and heard doing, including conversation in restrooms, criminal defendants in chains before being brought to the courtroom, and parties and their lawyers looking disengaged from the jurors.

The jurors are required to drop their own lives to sit through often boring-seeming proceedings, often for an insulting payment amount that might defray some mileage and buy a bag of chips and a bottle of water. If the jurors do not see the parties and their lawyers taking their roles seriously, treating each other respectfully, caring about the jurors and engaging the jurors, why should the jurors be expected to invest all their mental and physical energies to watching and listening to evidence, deliberating, and reaching a fair decision in the case?

Thanks to my brother criminal defense lawyer Mark Bennett for writing about the criminal defendant who looked totally detached from his potential jury panel, which impression may have been enhanced by his listening to an interpreter through headphones. I figure Mark was not seated for the trial, but he sat through enough of the jury selection to describe the defendant’s demeanor.

Mark’s post highlights the importance of going beyond advising clients to be respectfully dressed and pleasant in the courtroom, and to avoid eye-rolling, outbursts, and constant interruptions that will make his or her lawyer distracted to the client’s detriment. In my view, the client must engage the jury; I am not talking about looking at the jury or engaging in falsely wise facial expressions. I am talking about the need for the client to look and actually be interested in the proceedings. Mark advises to have the client write or draw pictures about everything happening in the courtroom, which will have the client looking up from time-to-time to see who is talking. I do not know if Mark is exaggerating about going to that level of writing, but if that is the only way for the client to be engaged, then so be it.

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