OOPS, HOW DO YOU MAKE CHLOROFORM, ANYWAY?
By: Amy Singer, PhD., Kristina Denius, JD. & Dan Reyes
March 6, 2017
It has been five and a half years since a jury found Casey Anthony not guilty of first-degree murder in the death of her three-year-old daughter, Caylee. From the moment little Caylee’s body was found, wrapped tenderly in a blanket in a marshy area not far from her grandparents’ home, there has been much speculation about what happened to cause the toddler’s death. At trial, the Prosecution argued that Caylee was killed when her mother chloroformed her and placed duct tape over her mouth, suffocating her.
Earlier this week, Former Judge Belvin Perry, Jr., who presided over the case, spoke out about what he now believes was the cause of Caylee’s death–an accidental chloroform overdose. With all due respect to Judge Perry, he got half of it right, in that it was an accident. However, not by chloroform overdose. The Defense team has always maintained that this was a tragic accidental drowning. When comparing the Prosecution and Defense differing scenarios, there are compelling reasons the Defense argument simply makes more sense.
Occam’s Razor posits that the simplest explanation or solution to a problem is usually right. Here are some of the more confusing and complicated aspects of the Prosecution arguments in this case:
The Prosecution presented evidence that Casey Anthony was conducting her own Google investigation into discovering the formula for chloroform. This is a red herring. The truth is, at that time, Casey was concerned (rightly so) about an alarming posting on her boyfriend’s MySpace page proclaiming, “Win her over with Chloroform.” I would be investigating what that meant and what it meant about the person I was dating as well.
Hollywood paints an unrealistic, fantastic picture of how chloroform works. It isn’t as simple as sneaking up behind a targeted person, covering their face with a chloroformed rag, and immediately the prospective victim is rendered unconscious and collapses into a comatose heap. The Chloroform Theory requires magical thinking about with how easy and simple it is to make chloroform. There is no simple recipe for creating chloroform wherein a person waves a magic wand and a bucket of chloroform appears. This is not like making chocolate chip cookies out of frozen Pillsbury Cookie Dough. Chloroform is an extremely dangerous, highly toxic compound. It attacks the nervous system, the respiratory system, the liver and kidneys, and can be deadly to anyone trying to create it. Imagining that a novice like Casey Anthony could effortlessly whip up a batch of chloroform without killing herself or anyone near here is like imagining that she could manufacture Benadryl or methamphetamine in her nonexistent pharmaceutical warehouse.
Speaking of Benadryl, if Casey’s motive in supposedly researching the formula for chloroform was to quiet a boisterous child for a little while, why not drive to the corner pharmacy and pick up some over-the-counter Benadryl or Nyquil and follow the dosing instructions for children under the age of twelve? Why not a tablespoon of whiskey in her sippy cup, the method favored by some of our grandmothers back in the day?
How do you make chloroform, anyway?
The Prosecution made a big deal about the fact that there was chlorine present in George’s car. In fact, there is a very elementary, non-sinister explanation for the presence of chlorine chemicals in George’s car. And, it has nothing to do with Casey placing a chloroform-soaked rag over her daughter’s nose and mouth. There is no evidence that directly connects Casey to chloroform or any chlorine product for that matter. The car smelled liked chlorine because when Casey’s father George picked his car up from the impound lot; it had a bag of garbage in it that had been baking in the hot Florida sun for days and had understandably created a terrific stink. George did what anyone would do under those circumstances; he cleaned the car with a strong odor-killing cleaner agent to rid the smell of rotting garbage from his vehicle.
What is the simplest way to explain what happened in this case? In the summertime in Florida, children tragically drown almost every day. When is the last time you heard of a child, or anyone for that matter, dying due to a chloroform overdose? Anywhere?
As the head Trial Consultant for the Defense in this case, I asked members of the American Society of Trial Consultants Association (ASTC) and my interns, to look over the comments and feedback garnered from the video stream of the trial which included the comments to the trial action in real time.
The experience our team had in and through the Casey Anthony trial spawned what soon became a breakthrough in the Jury Research space. We created our own patented Wizpor® technology. In the early days, we experimented with Dan Reyes, CEO of Trilogy Trial Consultants on the AV technology. Eventually Trial Consultants, Inc created software for analysis of this qualitative data. This ground-breaking tool in the area of jury research and the collection of litigation intel on facts, issues, arguments, witnesses etc utilizes any type of participant focus group.
Interestingly, the ASTC members monitoring the video stream of the trial and simultaneous reactions to witnesses, arguments, and testimony found that folks watching the trial were curious about chloroform and started looking it up on Google themselves. They sought information and communicated about chloroform. They were wondering, “How do you make chloroform, anyway?”
What we uncovered was that while there was a great deal of information about the ingredients for chloroform, there was no set formula that could lead a lay person to concoct a chloroform cocktail. They discovered that attempting to make chloroform is not a simple process and is in fact highly dangerous, particularly to the kidneys, and can be deadly simply by inadvertently inhaling the product or spilling it on the skin. Furthermore, they noted, there was no chloroform located in the Anthony household. If the goal was to put Caylee to sleep, than using chloroform would be similar to using a nuclear bomb to swat a fly.
If Casey’s motive in supposedly researching the formula for chloroform was to quiet a boisterous child for a little while, why not drive to the corner pharmacy and pick up some over-the-counter Benadryl or Nyquil and follow the dosing instructions for children under the age of twelve? Why not a tablespoon of whiskey in her sippy cup, the method favored by some of our grandmothers back in the day? There are much easier, less dangerous ways to go about this, and all it takes is a few dollars and a trip to the local pharmacy. Ultimately, our analysis mirrored with the same conclusions as the jury in Orlando.
Finally, the camera captures what the camera wants to capture. But what the jurors in the Orlando courtroom were focusing on was Casey’s father George, because his role in this sad case is rather mysterious. The Prosecution Expert asks, “who doesn’t report an accident?” The answer, for whatever reason, is Casey Anthony. The defense maintains that on the day Caylee most likely drowned, George was supposed to be baby-sitting. The only witness to what happened never came forward. In the end, however, the simplest solution screams that it IS the answer. Even the presiding Judge agrees this was an accident. Although, not by chloroform overdose, not by chloroform at all.
Ask yourself what is more likely, that as Casey and the Defense have been saying all along, there was a tragic accident and a little girl drowned accidentally in a pool on a simmering hot Florida summer day; or that there was some sort of complicated chloroform conspiracy gone terribly awry? Cut to the chase simply, and Occam’s Razor has the most sensible answer.
- see www.wizpor.com for information on the technology and how it works.
- Amy Singer
- Capital Murder
- Casey Anthony
- Casey Anthony Trial
- Caylee Anthony
- Cheney Mason
- Courtroom Strategizing
- criminal charges
- Death of a child
- demonstrative evidence
- False accusations
- First Degree Homicide
- first-degree murder
- George Anthony
- High Profile
- Jose Baez
- Judge Belvin Perry
- Jury Research
- missing child
- Occam's Razor
- persuasion strategies
- Social Media
- Social Networks
- Trial Consultants
BY AMY SINGER, PH.D, AND KRISTINA DENIUS, JD
The Walter Scott Shooting Trial: A Trial Consultant’s Observations
On April 15, 2015, Walter Scott, a 50-year-old unarmed black man, was pulled over by a white police officer, Michael Slager, in North Charleston, SC, for having a broken tail light. During the traffic stop, there was an altercation over the taser. While trying to flee the scene, Scott was shot five times in the back and killed. Unbeknownst to Slager, a passing motorist, “sensing there might be trouble” pulled over and started videotaping with his cell phone.
As in the similar Castile case in Minnesota, millions of people viewed the video. There was extensive media coverage and racially charged protests labeling this as a racial incident. Slager’s attorney, Andy Savage, hired a Charlotte based jury consultant to conduct trial research. Charlotte’s Live 5 News introduced the jury consultant in this way.
Focus groups are excellent ways to identify and zero in on the biggest detriments to a client’s case. Once those problem areas have been identified, the attorney can shape his/her case trial strategy with solutions to those problem areas. In this case, the focus groups revealed that the biggest hurdle Slager had to overcome with the jury is the ‘false narrative’ that this was a racially motivated crime.
Bull, a CBS television series about litigation psychology, explored a similar issue in a recent episode about jury/gender bias. The plot of that episode centered on a female commercial airlines pilot who was involved in a disastrous crash that killed everyone on board but her. In the pre-trial litigation focus groups conducted by Dr. Bull, the participants felt she was at fault for the crash. Dr. Bull ultimately exposed a jury gender bias amongst the participants. When the case was run before a focus group where the jurors were told the pilot was a male, the focus group exonerated the pilot. Dr. Bull then knew that he must overcome this gender bias if there are any hopes for success for his client at trial. And in typical Bull fashion, he successfully does this.
Juror Perception of the Videotape is the Key to the Case:
The trial began last month. The prosecution immediately presented the cell phone video and as reported by the New York Times, reactions were tense. The prosecution closed their case with a frame-by-frame, slow-motion rendition of the videotape. Michael Slager testified that the videotape does not accurately portray “the whole story” of the events. He argued that when Scott gained control of the taser, his life was threatened, and he had to keep firing until the threat was over.
What happened with the taser? Why did Scott run? Why fire eight shots? Would the shooting have occurred if the policeman had known there was a witness videotaping? Did Slager actually plant the taser? How will the jury decide what actually happened here? Does any of this matter?
We just found out that a mistrial was declared. There was one holdout. What influenced that one juror to hold out? Was it this person’s interpretation of the video? Perceptions based on racial attitudes? There was one person of color on the jury; do you believe that person was the holdout?
- 22 HOURS OF DELIBERATION
- ANDY SAVAGE
- BLACK LIVES MATTER
- BLUE LIVES MATTER
- CAREY CRANTFORD
- CHARLESTON SOUTH CAROLINA
- EXCESSIVE FORCE
- FALSE NARRATIVE
- FIVE WEEK MURDER CASE
- FORMER PATROLMAN
- HUNG JURY
- Jury Consultant
- JURY WHISPERER
- MICHAEL SLAGER
- MURDER TRIAL
- NORTH CHARLESTON
- OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTING
- ONE BLACK PERSON ON THE JURY
- ONE HOLD OUT
- Police brutality
- POLICE OFFICER
- SHOT IN THE BACK
- Social Media
- TRAFFIC STOP
- trial consultant
- WALTER SCOTT
By; Amy Singer, PhD. & Kristina Denius, JD.
The CBS television series “Bull” follows Dr. Jason Bull, an extremely intelligent, cocky yet charming, trial/litigation scientist who is hired by attorneys to ensure that the verdict in the deliberation room is favorable to their client. Week after week, Dr. Bull achieves this by analyzing how a potential juror will react to certain facts in any given case, and whether their decision making process will lead that juror to vote for his client. Dr. Bull has an uncanny knack for discovering what makes people tick. He is an astute observer with a keen sense of intuition that borders on clairvoyant. He uses his observations about human behavior and attitudes to manipulate juror thinking in such a way that the panel as a whole ultimately finds in his client’s favor. All of this is achieved not without the usual Hollywood tactics, sometimes outlandish, made-for-television entertainment embellishments. For instance, no trial consultant who wants a long and successful career would actually treat their attorney colleagues as rudely and disrespectfully as Dr. Bull does.
A troubling off-shoot of the “Bull” phenomenon is the paranoia it fosters in its viewer-ship. The “Big Brother” type manner in which Dr. Bull is able to “dig up” personal information on potential jurors with the whisk of a keystroke is alarming to some viewers, even sparking concerns about the future of the American judicial system. Some find the possibility that certain “skeletons in the closet” could be unveiled by a trial consultant during jury research, or actual jury duty, downright scary. However, there is no need for panic. No trial consultant worth their salt would ever seek such information. Not only is it impractical to do so, it is well established in the trial science community that such information does not correlate to jury verdicts.
Ironically, the most revealing information about a juror is information that most people are happy to share with others, such as an individual’s core beliefs, aka their value beliefs. Value Beliefs are the core internal precepts by which people think and operate, and as such are very unlikely to ever change. For example, “I believe that taking care of one’s elders in their twilight years is essential to family structure” is a value belief, and to the delight of trial consultants everywhere, people take pride in their value beliefs and talk about them freely with no need for any invasive prying. This is the sort of information that people WANT to share with others, and it is the type of information that enables trial consultants to do their jobs so well.
In order to promote “Bull,” CBS has partnered with Vigiglobe’s “social media analytic platform” to launch “What Type of Juror are You?” a cyber-oriented experience that interacts with users on Twitter. Users who want to find out what “type” of juror Dr. Bull believes they might be enter the “Bull” Twitter handle (@BullCBS) with the tag #DrBullReadsYou. Based on an analysis of the individual’s previous tweets, Vigiglobe’s program then classifies the individual into one of six categories: BelievaBULL, GulliBULL, ReasonaBULL, DependaBULL, NoBULL, or SwayaBULL. While this “digital jury analytics experience” may have proven to be a slick and successful marketing tool for CBS and “Bull” the television show, what does this sort of technology mean for the attorney, the client, and the ultimate outcome of their case, in the real world? The simple answer is, “not much.”
Demographics, life experiences, and personality traits of people can certainly be interesting. But, the fact that you are a divorced female taxi driver with a golden retriever, and people think you are nice, does not tell us anything about whether or not you are going to award nine million dollars in a products liability case where the main issue is causation. Interestingly, the question for the trial consultant is not “how do you go about determining who the best potential jurors are in this case?” Rather, because the jury selection process is actually a “Deselection®” process, the question becomes “what type of person are we looking to eliminate given the evidence, testimony and arguments in this particular case?” Selecting a jury is actually a process of using carefully tuned voir dire questions to “weed out” jurors who will be the most dangerous to an attorney’s case, based on core value beliefs.
For instance, the IBM Watson Program can tell us that a person has a low tolerance for ambiguity, and this is how it will affect their perception of the jury instructions for causation in a products liability case. Because causation is by its very nature intrinsically subjective, this type of juror is a red flag, one that must be carefully evaluated with other “tolerance for ambiguity factors” in order to advise plaintiff’s counsel about whether or not to use their precious peremptory challenges. In fact, given the arsenal of factor analysis for ambiguity available to the psychologist, this person would probably go for cause.
That isn’t to say there are not software systems out there that purport to have a magic formula, algorithms, or the key, to accurately predicting future juror behavior. There are plenty of software programs that say “this is who this person is.” But that’s not going far enough to actually predict juror behavior, to predict how a particular juror is going to internalize, and then vote on, a particular aspect of a case. To do that, a savvy trial scientist needs to step beyond the limited scope of the analysis performed by CBS with “Bull” viewers.The juror is internalizing the information presented about the case particulars. In this manner, Wizpor technology is achieving what “#DrBullReadsYou” has not, the ability to not only tell you what “type” of person you are dealing with, but more importantly the additional how this “type” will respond to your case. Telling somebody that this person is a dog lover is not as important as understanding whether dog lovers award more money for disfigurement. By the way, if you don’t know the answer, now understand why not: one variable does not a factor make.
Wizpor is complemented by the Voltaire Application, which mines social media information, market research information, and public record information with their proprietary analytics. Voltaire takes massive amounts of data, impossible for a human being to analyze, and analyzes it in milliseconds. The information that is mined goes through various algorithms to tell you how all of this information affects case strategy, and with Deselection® decisions, results in a much lower error rate than what the archaic “Bull” made-for-tv methods are showing, “freaking out” the public. In this way, Wizpor and Voltaire not only give the attorney important data, but also tell the attorney what that data means for their case. And this is invaluable knowledge to have when precious principles of justice are at stake for the attorney’s client.
For more information on Wizpor and Voltaire – please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (954) 648-7521.
Originally Posted By: TV News Desk on September 16, 2016 – see below for source link.
To promote its new drama series BULL, CBS has launched a digital experience, which, in a first for a U.S. entertainment company, utilizes an innovative algorithm that profiles and interacts with users in real time on Twitter.The Network has partnered with Vigiglobe, a specialist in real-time social media analytics, for its “What Type of Juror Are You?” digital activation for BULL on Twitter. The activation mirrors the profiling prowess and high-tech approach applied by the character Dr. Jason Bull, the extraordinarily successful trial consultant on CBS’s new Tuesday night series.
To participate, people simply send a tweet to the Bull Twitter handle (@BullCBS) with the tag #DrBullReadsYou. “Dr. Bull” scans the participant’s previous tweets and tweets back a personalized analysis about the kind of juror the person might be. The categories of jurors are BelievaBULL, GulliBULL, ReasonaBULL, DependaBULL, NoBULL or SwayaBULL. The user can click to share the results on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.
BULL premieres Tuesday, Sept. 20 (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT). The drama stars Michael Weatherly as the brilliant, brash and charming Dr. Jason Bull, who combines psychology, human intuition and high tech data to learn what makes jurors, attorneys, witnesses and the accused tick and to create winning strategies that steer high-stakes trials in his clients’ favor. BULL is inspired by the early career of DR. PHIL McGraw, the founder of one of the most prolific trial consulting firms of all time. Freddy Rodriguez, Geneva Carr, Jaime Lee Kirchner, Annabelle Attanasio and Chris Jackson also star.
About Vigiglobe: Vigiglobe specializes in real-time social media analytics. With WIZR™, its cutting edge technology that uses proprietary machine learning algorithms that analyze social media interactions in real time, Vigiglobe helps the media, brands, agencies and institutions LEVERAGE the power of social media content.
About CBS: CBS Corporation (NYSE: CBS.A and CBS) is a mass media company that creates and distributes industry-leading content across a variety of platforms to audiences around the world. The Company has businesses with origins that date back to the dawn of the broadcasting age as well as new ventures that operate on the leading edge of media. CBS owns the most-watched television network in the U.S. and one of the world’s largest libraries of entertainment content, making its brand – “the Eye” – one of the most recognized in business. The Company’s operations span virtually every field of media and entertainment, including cable, publishing, radio, local TV, film, and interactive and socially responsible media. CBS’s businesses includeCBS Television Network, The CW (a joint venture between CBS Corporation and Warner Bros. Entertainment), CBS Television Studios, CBS Studios International, CBS Television Distribution, CBS Consumer Products, CBS Home Entertainment, CBS Interactive, CBS Films,Showtime Networks, CBS Sports Network, Pop (a joint venture between CBS Corporation and Lionsgate), Smithsonian Networks, Simon & Schuster, CBS Television Stations, CBS Radio andCBS EcoMedia. For more information, go to www.cbscorporation.com.
TO READ THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE CLICK HERE: http://www.broadwayworld.com/bwwtv/article/CBS-Launches-New-Digital-Experience-in-Anticipation-of-New-Drama-Series-BULL-20160916
August 30, 2016
One of the more disturbing aspects of this case is the presence of the four year old child in the backseat of the vehicle being driven by Mr. Castile. This child, whose mother Diamond Reynolds was in the front passenger seat, witnessed Mr. Castile get shot by an officer of the law three to four times and bleed out and die right before her. Did Officer Yanez see the child before he fired the fatal shots? If he didn’t see the child, should he have seen her by looking in the backseat before firing? What is the police protocol in this situation? What should the police protocol be?
The child was physically unharmed, but what sort of lingering effects, emotionally and mentally, will this child carry with her for the rest of her life from having witnessed the carnage that unfolded before her? Is it ever okay to shoot into a vehicle when there are children present? Do you believe the child was in danger from a ricocheting errantly fired bullet? If she was does that matter?
What sort of effect will this have on this child’s trust and attitudes towards the police as she carries on with her life?
How does this case differ from that of Korynn Brown, a Baltimore woman who was shot dead on August 1, 2016 while simultaneously holding a shotgun and a five year old boy on her lap during an altercation with police? What effect should the presence of children have on police officer’s in their decision making of whether to shoot or not to shoot? Under what circumstances is the decision to shoot someone dead when there are innocents possibly in the crossfire, the right decision? Is it ever the right decision?
The most heartbreaking aspect of this case may be the little voice that can be heard on the video from the backseat of the car. Ms. Reynolds can be heard sobbing in the back of the car with her daughter.
“It’s OK … I’m right here with you,” the little girl said, apparently trying to comfort her mother.
Is anything ever really going to be OK again for anyone involved in this story?
The Curious Case of Philando Castile, Continued…
By: Dr. Amy Singer, PhD & Kristina Denius, JD.,
And so the case continues. In this update we will explore recently revealed clues germane to the case, revisit evidence that continues to bewilder, and assess the ongoing changing tide of public perception in the attribution of blame in the death of Philando Castile. We will also assess the impact of a subsequent racially charged police shooting in South Florida, which was also captured on videotape. What ramifications does the South Florida videotape have if any, on the Castile case? How do the new facts influence how the public views what is captured on the videotapes? Does new evidence alter the way the videotape in the Castile case is perceived? If so, how does it do so and will it be important to the ultimate outcome of the case?
The Plot Thickens:
We begin with the plot thickening. W now know that the day of the roadside encounter between Mr. Castile and the police officer, leading to Mr. Castile’s death was not the first time these two individuals had crossed paths in their lives. On November 23 rd , 2011 there was a traffic incident wherein Mr. Castile was pulled over for a broken tail light and it was discovered that he was driving on an expired license. Jeronimo Yanez, the police officer who would go on to systematically fire three to four shots into Mr. Castile’s body less than five years later, was one of the officers who accompanied Castile to the jail that day. At this point there is no way to know if either recognized the other.
Does it matter to you that they their lives had intersected in a previous traffic stop incident, one in which Mr. Castile ended up in jail? Does this fact change your previous conceptions of what you saw on the videotape or had heard about the case? Furthermore, what does it say to you that Mr. Castile had been pulled over 52 times in fourteen years? Are the police targeting him? Does he have a bull’s eye on him because he is black, or is it more likely that he is the type of person who taunts authority by consistently and repeatedly flaunting his disregard for it? Is he the type of person who pushes the envelope, wheeling around town doing whatever he damn well pleases? Does it matter to you that he smokes marijuana in the car, drives with (presumably) known suspended and revoked licenses, and broken tail lights? What do you make of these circumstances? Do they give you any insight into what sort of person Mr. Castile was? How do these facts color your opinions about Mr. Castile and the unfolding events that led up to his death? Does it bother you that Mr. Castile was apparently unfazed by incident after incident, being repeatedly pulled over and hauled off to jail, reprimanded and punished for the same trivial (in the scheme of things) offense? Does it matter that he had no serious criminal offenses on his record? What bothers you or doesn’t bother you about Mr. Castile’s actions as an automobile driver leading up to the final moments of his life? Do you think Mr. Castile is in part responsible for his own demise?
A Shift in Public Perception and Attitudes:
What does it say to you that the local Science Museum in Minnesota had to remove signs honoring Philando Castile? Signs that read “Race: Are we so Different?” and “The Staff and Board of the Science Museum of Minnesota join the community in mourning the tragic killing of Philando Castile” were forced to be removed due to overwhelming negative backlash from the community. What do you think about the Science Museum’s initial signs of support for Mr. Castile? What do you think has changed the tide of public opinion from one of initial support of Mr. Castile to a sense that his death may not deserve to be honored? What has changed? Why is public opinion turning against Mr.Castile? The videotape has not changed since it was filmed. So the question arises, what is motivating the change in the public’s assessment of who is to blame for the death of Mr. Castile? What are the motivating factors in court of public opinion regarding this case? The policeman who shot Mr. Castile, Mr. Yanez, states through his attorney that this case has nothing to do with race and everything to do with his being made aware of the presence of the gun. Which raises the puzzling specter, if Mr. Castile had not disclosed that he had a gun in his possession, (as he was required to do) would he still be with us?
Another Shooting, Another Videotape:
Finally this update concludes with an intervening police shooting of an unarmed black health care case worker on a North Miami street which was also captured by a videotape. The videotape clearly shows us a black man lying flat on his back in the middle of the road with hands raised above his head, while a young adult man sits cross-legged a mere few feet in front of the man clutching a child’s fire truck toy. For whatever reason, one of the responding police officer’s fired three shots, and the black man lying on the ground with his hands in the air was hit in the leg by one of the bullets. The evidence later reveals that the man who was shot, Charles Kinsey, is a behavioral health therapist who was trying to assist and protect an autistic patient (the man clutching fire truck toy) who had wandered off from a treatment facility. Reportedly, after he was shot, Mr. Kinsey asked the officer why he had shot him, and the policeman, Jonathan Aledda, responded, “I don’t know.” Further evidence suggests that the policeman was aiming for the autistic man. What does all of this mean? How does this affect people’s attitudes in the Castile case?
What effect does the videotape and evidence in the North Miami case have on the public’s impression of the videotape and evidence in Mr. Castile’s case? Does the Miami case in any way minimize Mr. Yanez’s responsibility for the death of Mr. Castile? Does the Miami case essentially take the wind out of the sails of those who were angered by the police shooting of Castile, in that the Miami shooting seems to be more blatantly egregious than the more ambiguous videotape and facts surrounding Mr. Castile’s case? How do we determine whether the deadly force used by Mr. Yanez was justified? Is it fair to compare the videotapes and evidence between two entirely different cases and sets of circumstances? The intriguing saga continues as the Castile case and other relevant events and evidence converge and unfold before us.
What effect does the continuous onslaught (by the media) of the imagery in these videotapes have on the viewing public? How does it shape our judgments and attitudes about what we are witnessing? How does it affect our decision making processes in determining who, if anyone, is to blame for the death of Mr. Castile?
The Curious Case of Philando Castile: A Trial Consultant’s Perspective
And so it begins again. Come with me on a journey, winding through the curious case of Philando Castileviewed through the eyes of a Trial Consultant. How will this case meander its way through the court system? We will be updating and discussing the twists and turns of the case and invite you to join us. You can help us predict how the case will evolve and eventually be resolved. We want to hear your thoughts and feelings about what has transpired and what your take is on new facts as they come to light in the coming weeks, months and years. Ultimately we want to know if this goes to trial, who wins?
Yet another shooting of a black man, this time in Minnesota, Philando Castile, 32, who was pulled over either because he had a “wide-set nose” and ostensibly resembled a robbery suspect, or because his tail light was out, or some combination of both. Mr. Castile was carrying a properly licensed concealed weapon. The policeman who shot Mr. Castile said that Castile was reaching for that weapon, while Mr. Castile’s fiancé who was sitting in the front passenger seat is adamant that he was simply reaching for his wallet to get his license and registration. What are the game-changing facts that will sway potential juror to formulate an opinion of the case, one way or the other?
What adds to the intrigue of this particular case is that we have an after-the fact viral video which was live streamed on Facebook immediately after the shooting, videotaped by Castile’s girlfriend, Lavish Reynolds.
What factors will ultimately influence a juror’s decision-making process in determining whether or not this shooting was justified? Visual and auditory evidence is often what captivates the minds of the public and is a powerful tool in shaping juror opinions about a case. What makes the Castile case fascinating is that we have the after-the-fact video. Remember the audiotape in the George Zimmerman case? Who can forget that? People could stand around the water cooler dissecting the audiotape and the map of the parking lot until kingdom come. The interest in the Castile case is similarly made more compelling by the captivationpeople have with the Facebook video.
The difference is that Zimmerman’s audiotape tape was recorded before the shooting. Will it in fact be admissible? If we rely on the ruling that was used in the Casey Anthonycase (the myriad pictures of her partying after her daughter died, and what the majority of the public thought was the most damning piece of evidence) then it should be admissible.
I am a defender of the constitution. A person is innocent until proven guilty. My question to you is what issues/ questions do you have to determine whether or not the prosecution will meet their burden of proof? What evidence will be important to you?
We have several intriguing factors here, including the voice of a distraught man who is heard screaming, “Fuck,” I told him not to reach for it!” Who said that? Does it matter?What exactly does that voice tell us/mean in the video?
There will be forensic experts that will tell us (based on the physical evidence) how far away the officer was standing from Mr. Castile. Does that matter? The angle of the blood/wound will tell us how far back Mr. Castile’s arm was when he received the first bullet? Does that matter?
There was more than one shot, and the first shot was to the arm. Why shoot him two to three more times? What does that tell us if anything? Which bullet killed him, the first, the last a combination?
There is also the perception of the evidence (which is the trial consultant’s job). There was a four year old child in theback seat of the car. Does it matter that a child’s life was potentially put in danger? Was it prudent of the officer to fire 3-4 shots? If the policeman was that close to Mr. Castile, why shoot him multiple times?
Were first responders called? The video basically shows a man dying in front of us for six minutes. Was an ambulance called? After six minutes we see a scene swarming withback up that was called. What does that tell you?
We see an officer holding a gun on a mortally woundedman, who is in no condition to reach for anything. Does that tell us anything about the officer’s “state of mind?” We have a woman recording what she says happened. The officer, (sounding hysterical to me, but that is just me) disagreeing with her version of events. She says Castile told the officer he had a licensed gun and was reaching for his wallet. This makes sense that he would be reaching for his wallet. It makes sense that most men carry their wallet in their back pocket. What do you believe, that a man would reach for his gun with a four year old child in the car with an officer who already has his hands on his gun? The next time you get stopped, for a traffic violation, look at where the officer’s hands are when asking for your license and registration. Does that influence you? Does the fact that they put the fiancé in handcuffs influence you? If so, how?
What do you think happened? What other clues did you see that influence your opinion? As I always ask in all of the cases I have had the privilege of working on: most importantly, what questions do you have that would help you decide whether the officer is guilty of excessive force?
January 13, 2016
By Amy Singer, Ph.D., and Kemberlee Bonnet, M.A.
Have you ever conducted a Decision Navigation® research study? It’s an excellent tool that allows researchers to plan a very detailed decision tree for successful litigation strategy. Think of it as a “reverse engineering of the verdict form.” Rather than the attorney questioning the surrogate jurors, these surrogate jurors interrogate the attorney. When the surrogate jurors conclude questioning, they deliberate and reach a verdict. In this type of focus group, surrogate jurors help provide us with the ideas for themes, pivotal points, and “keys” to the case.
We receive startling questions from surrogate jurors that attorneys were not expecting that we found, were in fact, to be important. For example, many years ago I had the privilege of working with Edward Bennett Williams on a tax evasion case. Naturally, our focus was on accounting, appraisals and evaluation. However that was not the focus from our research panels! What did they continuously ask about? The only answers they wanted pertained to the “cast of characters” within and between organizations and the defendant’s physical proximity to people who made the financial decisions. The defendant was “off the hook” because if he was not in “the same office” or did not have any communication with the financial folks, he could not be guilty of tax evasion. The case was about “distancing,” not “accounting.”
We used this data to analyze reactions and decision-making processes in order to brainstorm creative solutions to the problem areas identified. As a result, we scientifically constructed successful trial strategies and voir dire techniques.
Reasons the Decision Navigation® technique works:
1. Unlike traditional “mock trials” the Decision Navigation® data reveal to us what jurors want to know and the order in which they want to know it. This is the most important component of the Decision Navigation® research findings, as it allows us to analyze the trajectory of jurors’ cognitive “mapping” and information processing, thus enabling you, for example, to create your visual aids and series-of-events diagrams at an exceedingly effective level.
For example, we found out just how important “order of information” was in a complex commercial case. We were working for the defense. Surrogate jurors were hopelessly lost and overloaded with information. We switched the order of our presentation of certain facts.
Nothing helped. We turned to the demonstrative evidence folks to explain simple concepts (to us). Nothing worked. Was it too complicated for a jury trial? In our last attempt, we did a reverse engineering of the verdict form to get an idea of “what they wanted to know and when they wanted to know it.” We based our presentation on the order of the questions our surrogate jurors asked. We decided to tell the story from each plaintiff’s point of view. We told the story in this order: who was each plaintiff? What happened to each plaintiff? What did the plaintiffs know and not know? The graphics team went to work based on our revised strategy and we got a defense verdict.
2. Decision Navigation® informs us how jurors will perceive the facts of the case. Perception is of utmost importance, as people operate based on what they already know, grounded in their own experiences. It is vital to make sure that jurors are on the same page. Once we understand surrogate jurors’ perceptions, we can successfully build a strategy for the actual jurors on your panel that best guides them through the evidence, presenting it with an anchor- a life experience in which they can relate.
We worked on a case where the plaintiff was viewed as stoic and had horrible injuries. It was one of the “lucky to be alive” cases. My client, the plaintiff’s attorney, was concerned that folds would not understand the extent of his client’s injuries. The client himself was in denial. Obviously, we relied on the doctor’s testimony to get the seriousness of his injuries to the jury. What did we do? We video streamed “mock” cross examination of the plaintiff to a group of people who could respond anonymously (we know the people in the group, but did not know who was texting what). The technique is known as Simultaneous Reaction to Stimulus (SRS). The simultaneous reactions to the witness from our line SRS group revealed to us that as long as the plaintiff spoke about his high pain tolerance level, we would win over the jurors. Many of the subjects in our online group kept saying, “I have a high pain tolerance level, but I wouldn’t do that.” That was the perception we needed, and gave us some important clues for voir dire.
3. Decision Navigation® is enormously effective in the identification areas of confusion. By identifying areas in which surrogate jurors are confused, you can create effective analogies and metaphors, as we have found these to be the best way to ensure clarity in the trial setting. The analogy and/or metaphor will explain things to jurors in a way that it will make sense and aid in the understanding of a concept of which was initially confusing. When jurors relate to your analogies and the metaphors, they will truly understand your discourse.
We were working on a defective products case where we are alleging manufacturing as opposed to design defect. We needed an analogy. Maybe you already have a great analogy, but we didn’t.
My client, Ervin Gonzalez, after interaction with our live Decision Navigation® group, came up with a great analogy. The analogy was to a hamburger. “There was nothing wrong with the recipe, but that particular hamburger was made incorrectly.” The analogy worked.
4. Decision Navigation® methodology allows us to identify what is irrelevant to surrogate jurors in their decision-making process. You do not want to increase jurors’ “cognitive load” with information that they do not need- this will impose unnecessary mental effort. The cognitive load can be reduced by quickly identifying the relevant stimuli so that you can methodically organize it into meaningful subsets.
It will come as no surprise to my personal injury defense attorneys that causation is king. While plaintiff attorneys focus on negligence, the defense bar focuses on cause. Here’s the trick question: what is relevant when raising a causation defense? My client and I decided to work chronologically to show there was no causation in a medical malpractice case.
The damages were horrific in this psychiatric malpractice case. Leading with our best punch, we did not want to work backwards from the consequential to the antecedent even. It didn’t work. Nothing worked. Angry about falling below the standard of care and the sympathy of slaughtering many innocent people were “killing us.” We even had some surrogate jurors tell us afterwards that they would never participate in another one of these exercises again.
An even trickier question: what would be relevant in raising a causation defense in this particular high-publicity case? We conducted 10 Decision Navigation® studies focusing solely on causation. Surrogate jurors were told up front what the negligence and damages were, just to make things more difficult form my client. We kept focusing on the plaintiff and defense experts who testified exactly as you would expect. What we didn’t expect is that our surrogate jurors could not care less about what these experts had to say about the plaintiff- it was the type of mental illness he had and the odds of stopping him once he was hell-bent on his homicidal/suicidal spree.
What they were least interested in was what other psychiatrists’ success rates would be if our client followed the standard of care and treatment plan. There was only one thing our research groups focused on: the decedent’s family. Without hearing any evidence, everyone agreed that if this lunatic could be stopped, he could only be stopped by certain actions of his family. We studied what actions jurors would expect and the likelihood of those actions stopping the decedent. We relayed our intel to the demonstrative evidence department and once surrogate jurors saw the exhibits, they could not be convinced that the psychiatrist caused the injuries. I bet you haven’t heard about his case. You would have heard about it if the plaintiffs won.
5. Decision Navigation® data allows us to identify the best way to present (channel) the testimony and evidence (perception). The methodology shows us how to identify the best technique to anchor jurors’ existing attitudes into a different or similar direction, rather than trying to create new attitudes (change attitudes that are not value-based).
Decision Navigation® methodology enables us to identify factors that will enhance learning and memory. After identifying the important evidence and word associations through the Decision Navigation® study, you can use the appropriate psychological tool to facilitate and solidify learning. This includes the use of repetition to expedite memory and call attention to selective stimuli and also foster elaboration on those stimuli for memory enhancement.
One of my clients, Chris Searcy, had an auto case in which he had a computer animation of what happened according to the accident reconstruction experts. In our Decision Navigation® study, we learned that sometimes things are better left to the imagination. Just like the book is usually better than the movie, we discovered that Chris’ storytelling ability was better than the animation to maximize jurors’ perception, learning and memory of how the collision occurred.
The case was bifurcated between liability and damages. At trial the first jury found 93% liability on the solvent defendant, a construction company, 7% on the uninsured defendant driver, and 0% on the plaintiff. The second jury resulted in a verdict totaling $256 million dollars ($145 million for the plaintiff quadriplegic child, $66 million for the plaintiff hemiplegic child, and $50 million for the wrongful death of 6 year-old). A true testament to Chris and his ability to draw pictures with words.
6. Decision Navigation® methodology enables us to identify factors that will enhance learning and memory. After identifying the important evidence and word association through the Decision Navigation® study, you can use those to facilitate and solidify learning. This includes the use of repetition to expedite memory and call attention to selective stimuli and also foster elaboration on those stimuli for memory enhancement.
As you can see from the aforementioned examples, the Decision Navigation® has worked time and again. This methodology and design is based on scientifically-acceptable principles that have proved to hold up in court. This technique is unique, and our scientific jury research delivers reliable and valid direction; finding the most powerful and persuasive arguments while testing for and eliminating problem areas. When there is zero room for error, our jury-driven, psychologically-based testing provides a platform for creativity and effective construction of your paradigm.
November 10, 2015
By Amy Singer, Ph.D. and Kemberlee Bonnet
Social media is allowing researchers the chance to study human behavior in a new context, as users are freely revealing more and more information about themselves at both the individual and community levels. Researchers can analyze interactions that a person has with another individual or their announcements or “rants” at the public level. The information is given to us without restrictions, allowing researchers to collect data unobtrusively.
In data collection in the context of litigation psychology, it is important to consider that jurors bring with them their own life experiences, attitudes and outlooks that ultimately guide the decision-making process at trial. As trial consultants, we explore potential jurors’ thoughts, feelings, prior knowledge and experiences on a given topic as part of our analyses in that decision-making process. It is remarkable that this information can be discovered, not only in live voir dire, but through social media, and can be explained by psychological theory and phenomena.
Mining social media has its potential to extract valuable data patterns that can be beneficial researchers. We have put together some of the interesting psychological phenomena and theory applied to social media participation and a glimpse of how they guide attorneys in trial strategy.
One of the most fascinating and unusual phenomenon that manifests in the use of social media, is the transparency in personal expression. Researchers are using this information to their benefit and are now collecting data via online focus groups, discussion boards and social networking sites, as this raw and unfiltered data is like gold to a social scientist. In litigation, this phenomenon enables attorneys to obtain case-specific information via data mining or online focus groups, expressive information of which is direct and less censored. As trial consultants, we advise attorneys to take advantage of the unfiltered opinions and outlooks on the given issue that individuals would not provide in a live focus group or voir dire. The data is used to scientifically create successful trial strategies and voir dire techniques, specifically, to de-select jurors from a panel.
Another psychological theory pertinent in social media participation is Social Influence Theory. Social influence typically occurs when one’s emotions, opinions, decisions or behaviors are affected by others, and can be seen in conformity and leadership, for example. Most social influence studies have been traditionally conducted in laboratory settings, but research through social media is giving us a more generalizable and up-to-date context.
Social influence takes on many forms. One way in which the theory reveals itself is via “influencers”. An influencer on a jury panel is seen by the rest of the panel as an “expert” on a given case-specific topic and this individual has typically had similar life experiences that are critical to deciding the case. He or she will most likely express that familiarity with the experience and their opinions and views regarding those experiences.
Social media research and online focus groups enables us to identify influencers before a trial begins. For example, via online focus groups and discussion boards we have successfully identified the type of data that an influencer provides and ways in which to spot and steer clear of them if they are in favor of the opposition. Influencers are extremely important, as they help sway the group decision one way or another. We analyze cognitions, affect and life experience to help identify these, importantly, negative influencers and de-select the ones that will most likely yield the least favorable outcome (negative influencers), while keeping positive influencers under the radar to opposing counsel so that they can remain on the panel.
In Social Psychology, attitudes are considered to be the fundamental orientation to evaluate people, situations and ideas. Attitudes are not always consciously accessible, but nevertheless guide decision making. Importantly, attitudes can foster identification with social groups.
Attitudes are difficult to measure via self-report and that form of data collection is less reliable, due to social desirability effects. This can be combatted, however, in measuring attitudes via social media. On social media, it is fascinating that implicit attitudes become apparent, via the transparency effect.
For example, stereotypes associated with a defendant can have a significant impact on a jury’s verdict. Jurors on a live face-to-face face panel might go out of their way to suppress prejudicial attitudes. Nevertheless their attitudes, however implicit, still remain. In social media participation, those attitudes tend to manifest themselves, thanks to the transparency effect. Social media focus group research can tap into those attitudes because these participants are less likely to go out of their way to filter their responses. Such information is valuable to litigators whose case may involve, for example, a racially-charged crime.
Transparency and greater external validity leveraging social media is all well and good. However, many of my clients ask: “what does this really mean”? As Sigmund Freud once said, “once we name a thing by its rightful name, we begin to alter its power”. The research questions become: What are we identifying? How do we analyze this phenomenon? How do we interpret this data? What is our criteria for measurement? Fortunately, today’s litigators can use computer programs, such as Wizpor® to provide text analysis, sentiment analysis and channel analysis for predictive mined data.
The prevalent use of social media has produced extraordinary amounts of social data, as social media provides easily an accessible platform information sharing. Social media is beneficial in that you can collect real-time data, as peoples’ posts reveal the most-recent events, opinions and attitudes. If you are looking to find out about what a potential juror might think about your case, online interaction will help you obtain the valuable information from your target population in our society; information that would otherwise be nearly impossible to obtain at the face-to-face level.
The best way to tap in to all of these constructs is to work closely with a litigation psychologist well versed in applied research. These experts are skilled at the analysis of psychological constructs using the societal trajectory of interaction.
- Amy Singer
- data mining
- discussion boards
- jury consulting
- jury de-selection
- jury decision making
- Kemberlee Bonnet
- litigation psychology
- online focus groups
- psychological constructs
- psychological theories
- social influence
- Social Media
- social psychology
- transparency effect
- Trial Strategy
- Voir Dire