The role of juries in adjudicating cases has long been the subject of consternation and debate by those in the legal system. In civil jury trials, the jury acts as the fact-finder and must determine the proper level of liability (and where applicable, damages) to assign the defendant. Much psychological research has focused on how to craft trial procedures to assist juries with this complex task. For example, providing juries with both preliminary and final jury instructions has been found to improve decision-making processes and trial outcomes by giving jurors a cognitive framework to assess the evidence presented at trial. Other studies have observed that simplifying jury instructions, as well as allowing jurors to take notes and ask questions, can improve both juror comprehension and satisfaction. But how do jurors come to a verdict once they are sent to deliberate?
Last year, we previewed impending changes to the federal rule that governs the admissibility of expert testimony: Federal Rule of Evidence (FRE) 702. Since our last blog post on this topic, Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court approved those amendments. And as of December 1, the amendments are in effect. Amended FRE 702 now reads:
Last month, the Advisory Committee on Evidence of the Judicial Conference of the United States’ Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure voted to unanimously to recommend certain amendments to Federal Rule of Evidence 702, which governs the admissibility of expert witness testimony. This vote signals imminent changes that could significantly affect federal practitioners’ requirements to demonstrate their experts’ reliability.
A proposed amendment to Federal Rule of Evidence 702, which governs the admissibility of expert testimony in federal court, could clarify the evidentiary burden on proponents of expert testimony and a court’s role regarding its admissibility. Motions under Rule 702, frequently called Daubert motions after the Supreme Court’s opinion Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc., are used to limit or otherwise exclude an expert’s testimony to a jury. These motions are often critical to a case’s success, especially in fields that rely heavily on experts such as antitrust, product liability, toxic torts, and environmental litigation. An amendment to Rule 702 currently under consideration looks to clarify the proper evidentiary standard for such motions.
During trial, lawyers make many strategic decisions to try to appeal to a jury. For example, they consider not only the substance of the evidence they present, but also the emotional impact of that evidence. But the impact of a witness’ testimony can be blunted if your jury is not following the testimony, so the use of demonstrative exhibits can be a useful tool to ensure the jury remains focused on the testimony.
The prosecution of Elizabeth Holmes, founder of the infamous healthcare and life sciences company, Theranos, Inc., has sparked media attention around the country. With just a few months before trial is slated to begin, Holmes recently lost her pretrial battle over whether the attorney-client privilege precludes the introduction of certain emails with counsel. While the emails at issue remain sealed from public view, related filings and hearings indicate Holmes and lawyers at Boies Schiller Flexner LLP (“BSF”) attempted to prevent the Wall Street Journal from exposing the startup’s impending collapse.
On April 20, 2020, the Supreme Court held in a 6-3 decision that the Sixth Amendment requires a unanimous jury verdict to convict a defendant of a serious offense in state courts. In so holding, the Court not only paved the way for potentially hundreds of defendants convicted by divided juries, like petitioner Evangelisto Ramos, to obtain new trials, but also effectively overturned its prior holding in Apodaca v. Oregon. Thus, the potential impact of Ramos v. Louisiana extends far beyond issues of criminal procedure, as the justices’ spirited debate over when and whether to overturn precedent took center stage and illustrated deep divisions within the Court.