Shadow Juries and Mock Trials
A shadow jury is made up of individuals who closely match the demographics and backgrounds of actual jurors. Shadow jurors are paid to watch a trial and provide attorneys with feedback at the end of each day. Shadow jurors were famously used in the Texas criminal jury trial of Robert Durst.
A mock trial is tool for trial preparation that gives attorneys and the client immediate feedback from what amounts to a dress rehearsal for trial. Mock trial juries are made up of individuals who are legally qualified to serve as jurors who hear evidence, deliberate, and issue a verdict at end of the mock trial. These jurors are selected from the same jurisdiction where the actual jury will be selected from.
Mock trials generally do not use actual witnesses and instead use actors who portray the roles of the witnesses. The lawyers are real, but the acting judge is generally a seasoned attorney or retired judge. Mock trials also give attorneys and clients the opportunity to refine visual presentation strategies. Mock trials also give the client the opportunity to testify and be subjected to cross-examination.
Going to trial is always a high-stake endeavor. Lives, careers, and a person’s freedom are on the line in a criminal case. While any case can benefit from a mock trial, the cases that can benefit the most are cases involving unusual issues or high-profile defendants.
Mock trials are not primarily for verdict predictions. Seasoned trial attorneys can give you a good idea of what a jury might do in a particular case. Instead, mock trials are a valuable tool in providing feedback on trial strategies, visual presentation techniques, juror questionnaires and voir dire questions. Trial exhibits become more and more important with every passing year. Shadow juries provide feedback about exhibits and visual presentations.
Think of mock trial as a dress rehearsal that allows the attorneys and client to fine-tune their preparation. While mock trials are not as expensive as shadow juries, mock trials require a considerable commitment of time and resources in order to be effective. The attorneys and client should prepare for the mock trial just as they would the actual trial.
Varghese Summersett PLLC is the only criminal defense firm in Fort Worth to have its own in-house courtroom. Our attorneys have collectively tried over 550 jury trials, including cases where the death penalty was sought. For more information, call us at (817) 203-2220.
Also published on Medium.