|When I'm trying to make an
audience appreciate the extraordinary connections the brain makes
between ideas and sensations, I am often tempted to mention how the great
French author Marcel Proust was prompted to recall intense and detailed
memories of his childhood --in fact, almost 4,000 pages of such memories
comprising his masterwork "Remembrance of Things Past-- merely
by nibbling on a madeleine. As apt as the example might be, because
it is expressed in terms of a writer, book and for that matter, even a
cookie, unfamiliar to most Americans, it merely serves to alienate the
listeners. Worse, it may come across as pompous and condescending.
Experienced trial lawyers appreciate the folly of talking over a juror's head, as well as the even greater sorrows engendered by condescension. It can be hard to strike the right balance without losing credibility. Although you are not likely to offend jurors by using a visual aid that goes over their heads, neither are they going to welcome the feelings of ignorance and inadequacy which such use may bring. Just as you strive to use common language and expressions in addressing the jurors, you should strive to use familiar images and visual expressions in your demonstrative evidence. Couch your visual metaphors in common experience.
The trial of a lawsuit today is not conducted very much differently than it was when Abraham Lincoln was plying the trade. But the juror today is a very much different person than Lincoln faced.
The great trial lawyers of yore -- advocates like Max Steuer, Moe Levine, Clarence Darrow, William Jennings Bryan-- would routinely pepper their arguments with passages from famous books, usually the Bible. Why? Because in that day and time those works contained the most familiar parables and values. Today, like it or not, more of our jurors have seen the movie "Titanic" than have read the Bible, They know far more about Luke Skywalker than about Luke the Apostle. If we are going to reach today's juror, we must tap into what's familiar to them.
Recent studies suggest that the average household has the television on for about seven and one-half every day. Television has been around about fifty years. What this means is that most of your jurors have spent a huge part of their lives watching TV. It is their principal source of news, entertainment and opinion. The attitudes which jurors bring to the courtroom are closely tied to what they see on television and, to a lesser extent, in the movies. Use this connection to your advantage by incorporating the modern metaphors of popular media into your presentation in much the same fashion as William Jennings Bryan might have referenced the Bible.