A Juror Grappling With The Evidence: While serving as a juror, you will be presented with a wave of evidence that you are expected to consider and draw conclusions from. At times, the evidence may be overwhelming, and so taking a structured approach is helpful to making sense of it all.
A juror need not accept all the evidence admitted in trial as true. Rather the juror must evaluate the testimony and decide how much weight to assign to a given testimony surrounding each piece of evidence. It is important to keep in mind that a testimony may not be reflective of reality. For example, the witness may be lying, or he or she did not accurately observe the events as they transpired. The witness’s memory may have faded, or he or she may not have been clear about the facts, which could, in a juror’s mind, lessen the weight given to such evidence. There is not a set rule based upon which a juror is supposed to evaluate the evidence. A juror is expected to decide the reliability of information based upon the tests he or she applies on a daily basis, and this is molded by their life experiences and background.
There are various questions that a juror should answer about a given witness when weighing the witness’s testimony: (1) whether the witness has an interest in the outcome of the case; (2) whether the witness has a bias or prejudice; (3) the age of the witness; (4) the appearance of the witness; (5) the demeanor of the witness when relaying his or her testimony; (6) the opportunity and the circumstance under which the witness observed the facts he or she is testifying to; and (7) the probability of the witness’s testimony in light of the remaining evidence.
The evidence presented may conflict with other evidence. Therefore, the juror should try to reconcile the evidence, weighing it all in turn. However, if the juror is unable to fit the conflicting evidence, then the juror must decide which evidence to accept and which evidence to reject.
At times, a given testimony is not contradicted with an opposing testimony, but still appears unproven. A jurordoes not need to accept unopposed testimony. Each member of the jury must assign weight to the testimony, especially when it is not opposed, and a juror can reject the testimony in its entirety, as untrue, if they so deem. The important thing to remember as a juror is to weigh each testimony and each piece of evidence.
A case may involve events that have occurred at a certain location. The juror should refrain from visiting the location, because the present condition of the location may be different from what it was at the time that the events occurred. Therefore, the juror must rely only upon the evidence presented at trial in order to assess the condition and circumstance under which the events occurred.
A case may also involve heightened media attention. Therefore, if necessary, a juror may be instructed to refrain from gathering information about the case through the newspaper, radio, television, or social media. A juror is not permitted to conduct his or her own research about a given matter or topic, whether through books, magazines or the Internet. As a precaution, the juror is asked to turn off electronic devices. As mentioned above, the juror must only draw his or her conclusions from the evidence admitted at trial.
Do not be overwhelmed. Remember, there are other jurors with whom you will have the opportunity to discuss and assess the evidence. You are not on your own.
“A Juror Grappling With The Evidence” was Posted by Michael B Schulman, Managing Attorney