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What the Prosecution in the First Rod Blagojevich Trial Failed to Do
Attorneys who cannot connect the dots of a case for a jury will often lose that case, no matter how compelling or overwhelming the evidence they present might be.
This is seen when would seemingly "slam dunk" cases come out with surprising results, says Nelson. The jury foreman of the first Rod Blagojevich trial critiqued the U.S. attorneys in the following manner:
“They didn’t impress upon the jury the importance of the different counts and how they related to the six schemes that Rod Blagojevich was charged with. And as a consequence, when we went into the deliberation room we were very confused. We didn’t know how to start….it was days before we found the indictment. We didn’t even know that the indictment was in the evidence carts. Once we found that we were elated.” (Chicago Tonight TV show)
"The foreperson’s assessment reflects a disturbing comment I hear repeatedly in jury debriefings and in focus groups: the attorneys do not connect their points or evidence to the specifics of the complaint," says Nelson. "In addition, attorneys rarely fully explain the jury instructions to the jury, tying in those instructions to the attorney’s interpretation of the case."
Nelson says this leaves jurors in distress as in the first Blagojevich corruption trial that ended with the jury deadlocked on all but one of 24 counts. "They were confused, perturbed and unable to think in a reasonable manner about the case," says Nelson.
She suggests that litigators always make the connection for jurors, in obvious, preferably visual ways, between the evidence and testimony, and the complaint/cross-
"Experience shows that with all else being roughly equal," says Nelson, "attorneys who present their case the most clearly, are the most likely to succeed."
For more trial techniques, go to Nelson's blog, "A Winning Tip," (awinningtip.blogspot.com)
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Noelle C. Nelson, Ph.D., is a trial and business consultant who provides trial/jury strategy, witness preparation and focus groups for attorneys. She is the author of the booklet, "101 Winning Tips: How to Give a Good Deposition and Testify Well in Court." Her published books include "A Winning Case" (Prentice Hall) and "Connecting With Your Client" (American Bar Association)