This is a very interesting tool that can be very helpful in certain circumstances. The shadow
jury (see our article on Shadow Juries) consists of a number of jurors (at Cathy E. Bennett & Associates, Inc., we normally use 4 to 6 jurors) who demographically match the most powerful
members of the seated jury. We match the jurors by race, gender, age, education, and
employment. These jurors, as the name suggests, literally serve as surrogate jurors. They are in
the courtroom whenever the actual jury is in the courtroom and, leave whenever the actual jury is instructed by the judge to leave.
At the end of each court day, the shadow jury is debriefed on the impact of the day's proceedings:
1.) What the most powerful or impressive evidence was;
2.) What they thought of the lawyers;
3.) What they thought of the evidence or exhibits; and,
4.) Their feelings and opinions about the witnesses (as well as, other similar questions).
The trial consultant then conveys that information to the attorney in the form of a written report. That report is condensed to a page or two and represents the positive and negative aspects of the day's proceedings.
As stated previously, this can be a very valuable tool if lawyers understand that it is input from mock jurors and not necessarily what the actual seated jury is thinking or feeling. We have heard of many cases where lawyers hired shadow jurors and the results were disastrous for a variety of reasons.
Some of the reasons why a shadow jury can become a disaster are:
1.) The lawyers focus their case and attention on the shadow jurors instead of the real jurors;
2.) Opposing counsel calls to the seated jurors' attention that shadow jurors are being used; or,
3.) The shadow jurors find out which side has hired them and they want to give information and feedback that will please their employer.
All of these problems can be avoided if effective and thorough steps are taken.
A shadow jury is an expensive but interesting process. The cost for using this tool can range from $3,000.00 to $5,000.00 (or more) for each day of trial. Obviously, this kind of tool should only be used in cases with potentially substantial consequences.