Discovering the Game Changers in Your Case0
By: Amy Singer, Ph.d & Kristina Denius, J.D.
Have you ever wished you were clairvoyant and could read jurors’ minds? How can you know what a juror is really thinking? What would it be like to know their inner biases, thoughts, experiences and value beliefs? How do you know what facts are going to change their minds? How do you go about finding the Game Changers to your case? What is a Game Changer, anyway?
We recently had a challenging case wherein discovering the Game Changer was the key to the case. And while the Game Changer is obvious once you say and hear it, it hides in plain sight very cunningly.
The Case Facts:
In 2014, two twelve-year-old girls in Wisconsin lured their friend into the woods and stabbed her nineteen times in an attempt to appease an internet fictional character known as the Slenderman. Remarkably, the victim, another twelve-year-old, lived to tell her tale. Experts testified that the two defendants suffered from a “shared delusional disorder” and bought into internet folklore that if they did not kill their friend, the Slenderman would kill them and their families. This is not a case of insanity, but one of mental defect. Both girls knew what they were doing was wrong.
We represented one of the defendants, Morgan. We knew that in order to avoid a jail sentence and get her the mental health care she desperately needs, it was important that people not see her as evil. The biggest hurdle we faced was convincing the jury that Morgan is not evil.
Finding the Game Changer:
We ran focus groups, and used an interactive audience-sharing platform called Wizpor. Wizpor™ simulcasts attorney’s pretrial presentations (including mock trials and focus groups) to an online panel of participants (Wizporers) who give their feedback and opinions in real time.
Wizpor successfully uncovers the game changers in a case in two key ways: responses are anonymous and unfiltered (there is no social conformity effect) and it facilitates a flow of consciousness that is not possible in traditional focus groups. This is because with Wizpor everyone is thinking and responding to case information simultaneously.
Wizpor helps the Moderator zoom in on important criteria, such as what questions jurors are asking, how they relate to and what their emotional reactions are to the information they are hearing, and what judgments they formulate as they process information. Once you know the Wizporers unfiltered thoughts, you are as close to being infallible with your focus group results as you can expect to be.
The Game Changers:
First, we realized it was important that the jurors feel equally as sorry for Morgan as they did to the girl who got stabbed. It became apparent that Morgan’s home life was far from ideal and she was diagnosed with schizophrenia. It was not until it was revealed in passing that her father also had schizophrenia that people reacted with strong sympathy for Morgan. Suddenly, Wizporers felt that she was genetically and environmentally disadvantaged from the get go, that she didn’t stand a chance for a normal life. After the revelation about Morgan’s father, no one wanted to see Morgan go to jail. Recently a judge sentenced Morgan to a mental hospital, where she will receive the proper medication and get the help that she needs.
In the end isn’t fairness and justice all that we want?
Next Up: How to Identify the Judgment Calls jurors will make in your case…..