Top Tips-Jury Section, Law Division

Top Tips-Jury Section, Law Division

. Know the facts of your case. It may seem simplistic, but jury trials are won on the facts. The importance of knowing the facts of the case cannot be overstated.
 
. Know the law regarding expert witnesses. You should know what qualifies a person to be considered an expert. People v. Miller, 173 Ill. 2d 167 (1996). Also, you should know the types of subjects experts can and cannot testify to, Hernandez v. Power Construction Co., 73 Ill. 2d 90 (1978), and that experts can give opinions on ultimate issues, Zavala v. Powermatic, Inc., 167 Ill. 2d 542 (1995).
 
. Know how to question expert witnesses. Wilson v. Clark, 84 Ill. 2d 186 (1981), is the most important case dealing with expert witnesses. Ziekert v. Cox, 182 Ill. App. 3d 926 (1989), explains that an expert can testify to the basis for his opinions, and Jager v. Libretti, 273 Ill. App. 3d 960 (1995), is an excellent opinion that gives an example of how to cross-examine a witness with the use of out-of-court statements.
 
. Know how to impeach with a prior inconsistent statement. You should know how to impeach with a prior inconsistent statement. Repeat the current testimony, build up the importance of the prior inconsistent statement and confront the witness with the prior statement, but impeach only on important matters. Do not overdo it. Impeachment is effective when used properly, but becomes meaningless if a witness is impeached with every insignificant discrepancy.
 
. Know how to use technology. Know how to use computers, videos and electronic equipment at trial, or have someone present who can. Today more than half of the jurors know how to use electronic equipment; it is not amusing to the jury for an attorney to be "technologically challenged." The jury does not appreciate someone wasting its time because of an inability to operate equipment.
 
. Know how to read an evidence deposition to the jury. Many attorneys read evidence depositions in a monotone. When you read the important parts of an evidence deposition, you must do something to get the attention of the jurors. Change your tone of voice, change the inflection in your voice or move from behind the podium.
 
. Know how to deal with the issue of damages. If you represent the plaintiff, spend just as much time on damages as you do on liability. If you represent the defendant, don't treat damages as an afterthought.
 
. Know how to use voir dire effectively. Voir dire is the only time you can speak directly to an individual juror. Use this time to make a positive impression on each juror. Make eye contact and if you do not ask a question of every juror, at least speak to each juror.
 
. Instruct your witnesses about orders in limine. Make sure your witness does not cause a mistrial by violating an order in limine based on your opponent's motion. You should also be sure that your witness does not discuss evidence that was precluded by an order based on one of your own motions.
 
. Be yourself. There is no such thing as "the" personality of a litigator. If you are methodical, be methodical. If you are outgoing, be outgoing. Do not risk making a mistake by trying to emulate the style of someone else.
 
Republication from original article in 22 CBA Record 32