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The “X” factor in jury trials

This week, like so many in Maryland and around the nation, I awaited the jury’s verdict in the trial against George Huguely V for the murder of Yeardley Love in Charlottesville, Va. While the jury deliberated, many legal analysts and talking heads speculated about the verdict and attempted to predict the jury’s decision. I, too, wondered what would be debated in that jury room and what facts or elements would be most important to them in rendering their verdict. I have observed several jury trials during my clerkship. There have been many cases that I thought for certain would go one way but ended up going another. It appears that even the most seasoned trial lawyer can be surprised by a jury’s verdict: what seems critical to lawyers is often not what is most important to jurors. The experience has caused me to question whether I’ll be able to effectively relate to and persuade juries in the future. Lawyers spend three (or four) years breaking down the way they used to process information and rebuilding their minds to think in terms of “issue-rule-analysis-conclusion.” When lawyers start trying cases before juries, as Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Marcus Z. Shar told my trial advocacy class, they must remember who they were before they went to law school. Lawyers must tell the story, not just clinically present evidence that proves the elements.

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