Last time we discussed jury trials in a broad overview. We touched on what a jury can decide in family law cases, how to get a jury trial, the process of voir dire, and how the actual trial itself works. This week we will discuss finer details that may not be evident on the surface but are crucial to how the jury perceives you. Understanding these psychological aspects of jury trials can help you make the best impression possible. Below are common tips that I give to clients, to ensure that they put their best foot forward.

In a jury trial, your goal is to convince twelve random strangers that they should believe you over your opponent. The first key to this is remembering that these twelve represent the average everyday people in their are. So, they are likely going to have the same ideals and beliefs as others in the community. For example, if you’re in trial in a rural area, don’t put down small town or country living when you’re witnessing on the stand. If you’re in a very conservative county it is probably not the best time to speak on your pro-choice stance. I’m not saying you need to lie on the stand, but what you need to do is know your audience.

Next let’s talk about body language and facial expressions. This is just as important as what you say in your actual testimony. It’s important to remember that the opposing party is going to do all they can to paint you in the worst possible light. Don’t make their job easier by proving their point. You need to keep your physical reactions to testimony at a minimum. It’s never easy to sit quiet while someone is actively lying about you, but you have to keep in mind that the jury’s eyes will be on you. For example, if the witness is saying that you are overactive, quick to anger, and can’t control your emotions; don’t begin glaring at the witness or throwing your hands in the air upon hearing their testimony. If you do this, who do you think the jury is going to believe? In a similar vein, if the opposing party is testifying about something bad that you have allegedly done or said to them, don’t smile and laugh to yourself. The jury will examine you all trial to determine your credibility. Don’t give them any reason to doubt it.

You will also need to keep in mind how you speak to opposing counsel. Don’t be hostile or combative with them, and don’t try to dance around the questions they ask. If you are asked a yes or no question, you will need to answer with “yes” or “no”. If you continue to give nonresponsive answers, and they have to constantly object to you, it will look as though you’re attempting to hide something from the jury. If nothing else harms your credibility, looking like you’re trying to hide the truth definitely will.

When it comes to jury trials being genuine is key. Don’t make a script for yourself to follow when you’re on the stand. Don’t make a grand show of turning to look at the jury whenever you answer a question. And definitely don’t fake cry to get sympathy points. People can see through these actions, and can tell when an act is being put on. The key to jury trials is understanding the average person. If something doesn’t seem believable to you, it’s likely not going to be believable to them. Knowing your audience, being cognizant of your body language, and keeping your testimony genuine will all go towards how the jury perceives you, which in the end will go towards their verdict.