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3 Tips to Elicit Sympathy From a Jury

By George Khoury, Esq. on September 07, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When it comes to winning, one of the most important parts of any case, especially for lawyers on a contingency, or defending cases of clear liability, is damages.

There's no denying that the more sympathy you can get from the jury (or judge) for your side, the more likely the damages will shake out in your favor. Even if a jury is limited to awarding fixed statutory damages, a sympathetic jury is likely to look for ways to award even more (or avoid awarding anything at all).

Below, you can find three tips on how to elicit sympathy from a jury.

Feed the Fact Finder

Hanger is real. When people are hungry, it causes a blood sugar fluctuation, which releases hormones, which cause increased irritability. Juries usually don't want to be there in the first place, so add in some hanger, and you could be in some trouble.

Okay, so you may not be able to hand deliver a box of pastries or bagels to the jury room in the morning, but timing your most sympathy inducing testimony for first thing in the morning, or immediately after lunch, can really pay off. Minimally, try to avoid timing your money-making testimony for right before lunch, or the end of the day.

Keep Your Story Alive

The most important part of getting a jury on your side is telling a good story. Even if you have a compelling tale that would evoke even the most heartless person's sympathy, you can't just randomly organize your presentation and expect the sympathy to flow.

Despite the fact that your argument and entire case is always clearly laid out at the outset in your opening, the jury's not going to remember it. Though your witness examinations would connect the dots for the jury, the disconnect in time between opening and examinations, even if only a few minutes or an hour (but especially if it is days), can leave a jury guessing at where you're going or getting at. As such, it's important to remind the jury of where each witness fits into the big picture of the case, while examining the witness (which usually requires some creative question planning).

Client Presentation Is Critical

How a litigant, especially a victim, presents makes a significant difference. And while there are several questionable tactics you can suggest, from talking fast to wearing oversized clothing, one of the best things any witness can do is just be as genuine and relatable as possible. Don't let your witness get blindsided by bad facts. Prepare for the bad facts, and face them head on (if you're best judgments deems that to be a good strategy).

If the case isn't over some catastrophe or clear injury, you'll need to give the jury something they can connect to personally. Also, making sure your client doesn't come off as entitled, but rather as someone who has been unjustly caused losses, can go a long way to ensure that a jury doesn't view your client as abusing the legal process and wasting time and resources (and being one of "those" frivolous litigants).

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