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Client’s Role in a Jury Trial


It is your decision to go to trial. You have discussed the case fully with your attorney, reviewed the evidence and how it applies to what your being accused of doing, and now you make the call to let a jury decide.

This post intends to shed a little light on what to expect, and how to behave during a criminal jury trial.

So what is your role during the trial?
A trial is a stressful event. It maybe the most anxious, overwhelming, and frightening time in your life. You have to sit there while the other side argues vehemently to 6-12 strangers about how bad your decision making is, how poor your actions are, and that you have failed judgment and deserve to be punished. You also have to sit there while witness after witness takes the stand and testifies negatively about you. It is a very adversarial process. Your role through this process remains the same. Trust your lawyer.

Your primary duty during trial is to trust your lawyer. He’s a professional. He’s trained in the law of your case, evidence, court procedure, and advocating for you to a jury. This doesn’t suggest that you sleep through the process, this means you paid this professional good money for a reason, it’s time to let your lawyer show you why.

Juries often decide cases based on the best story told by the lawyers. A trial lawyer is a story-teller. You are the main character. The jury must like you as a human being, they must view you as a protagonist, not an antagonist. In this day full of social media, jurors (although they are instructed by the court not to) will check you out on facebook and twitter. Make sure these accounts are private. Have a respectable profile picture. Clean up you Status Updates and Tweets. I expect my clients and advise them to dress nice, like your going on a job interview, or to church, or meeting the President of the United States. Pay special attention to your body language. Smile, not too relaxed, but comfortable that you will prevail. Confident, not arrogant. Non-verbal communication is likely the only exchange that will occur between you and the jury because in criminal cases, you do not have to testify, and in most instances, will not. It is perfectly ok to exchange pleasantries with jurors outside of the courtroom, things like “good morning” or “hello”. But beyond that, conversing with jurors is prohibited during the trial. Take a few notes during trial. It shows you are paying attention and care about the outcome. Vigorous note-taking however appears blameworthy. No noises. No sighs, deep breaths, slamming of pencils, or excited mutterances under your breath. Always remain calm, confident, and engaged.

Be prepared to be humble in victory or gracious in defeat. In my experience, jurors generally care about the outcome and strive to the right thing. Their role is a difficult one as well. If I do my job correctly, they will do theirs correctly also. Your day in Court is the most important thing and is what makes our country the greatest in the world. It is a symphony where your rights are the instruments and the courtroom, its conductor. Like any trial in life, a jury trial will come and go, and you must continue to move forward.

Finally, a good trial lawyer is hard to find, and sometimes even harder to afford. But, isn’t it more expensive to hire an amateur? If you have difficulty trusting your lawyer in this process, then you don’t have the right lawyer. It is too later to fire your lawyer once the trial begins, that trusting relationship must exist the day you have your initial consultation. We all want to hear that sweet two word verdict of “not guilty”, make sure you have the tools to go get it.