What is a Mock Jury?
A mock jury is a group of people assembled to hear a legal case and respond to it, in a “trial” which does not have legal ramifications. Mock juries are used in legal education and legal research to create a trial-like setting for learning which does not involve the actual legal system. The trial may have varying degrees of realism, ranging from being held in a courtroom with a real judge to being conducted informally in a classroom with a student acting as the judge.
In legal research, the purpose of a mock jury is to create a focus group which lawyers can use to explore the dynamics of juries, and to see the way in which juries will respond to their case. Cases can be argued in a number of ways, and sometimes it helps to test out arguments and approaches with a jury, to see how ordinary people might respond to the case. In this case, the mock jury would usually hear an abbreviated version of a trial, which may consist only of primary arguments, with no presentation of evidence, and then the jury deliberates and returns a verdict.
Mock jury research can be expensive, but very useful for committed lawyers. A well argued defense or prosecution can make or break a case, and in high profile or complex trials, jury research may be strongly recommended to give lawyers a better idea of what they are working with. In some instances, arguments which seem sound can backfire in the real world, and lawyers would prefer to learn this in front of a mock jury, rather than in court.
The pool of mock jurors is usually paid, and they may be recruited from a variety of settings. Some firms even offer online mock jury trials, which can cut down on expenses. People who are interested in serving on a mock jury can contact law firms in the area to see if they perform mock jury research, and where they draw their pool of jurors from.
In legal education, mock trials are used to allow students to experience the setting of court so that they can improve their courtroom skills without practicing on real clients or cases. In these cases, the students in a class break up into groups to provide a jury, lawyers for both sides, and a judge. The students may also act as mock witnesses and play other roles in the courtroom, with students learning from the experience of setting up and arguing the trial.
Mock trials actually take place on a competitive level among some law schools. Within a school, students may compete formally or informally, and law schools can also challenge each other to mock trials in more formalized championships. These mock trials can be valuable learning experiences as well as tools for professional advancement.
By discussing what the case was about you violated the confidentiality agreement and there may be serious consequences. Just sayin'...
@AnswerMan- My mock jury trial experience wasn't as elaborate as yours, but I felt like I did the right thing at the end. I think they were trying to find out if people from my area would be more sympathetic to the plaintiff than people from another part of the state. It was a case involving a near-fatal car wreck between a church van and a delivery truck.
In our case, the plaintiffs were suing the delivery company for negligence, The driver of the delivery truck had been on the road for 14 hours and may have fallen asleep at the wheel. Only one mock juror felt the defendant was not liable for the accident. We awarded the plaintiffs $35,000 in actual damages and $3.5 million in punitive damages. We felt the delivery company needed to change it's policy on acceptable driving hours. The real trial was held a year later, and it went almost exactly like the mock trial.
I served as a mock juror on a mock trial one time, and it was a very interesting experience. I got the job by signing up at a professional survey company in a local shopping mall. We were told to report to a room in their office suite the next morning. They only asked us if we had any connection to local media outlets. The client didn't want details of the "lawsuit" leaked to the general public.
We were split into two juries, but we all heard the same testimony at the same time. The case involved a woman who was severely burned by gasoline she brought into her new home to remove some spilled paint. The fumes from that gasoline made contact with a live pilot light on a gas water heater and triggered the fire. She was suing the manufacturers of the water heater for not keeping the flame 18 inches above the ground.
There were real attorneys arguing for both sides, and the judge made sure we only heard what would have been legally admissible in a real court. Some of the witnesses seemed more credible than others, but I couldn't tell if they were actors reading from a script or real experts testifying the way they would in a real court. It was a very convincing performance, either way.
I was elected foreman of one jury, and we spent a few hours deliberating the facts of the case. It became apparent that most of us sided with the defense, since the woman brought the gasoline inside her house and should have realized what a bad idea it was. She got burned by an act of neglect, not a design flaw with the water heater. But we still had two hold-outs who thought the company owed her millions of dollars in damages. The day ended with a finding in favor of the defendant, but an imaginary award of 3 million dollars for the plaintiff if she had a better case.
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