By Dale Gribow
The first thing you have to remember is that jurors are normal people like you and me. In that regard, first impressions are important. Try to remember back to when you were dating. The first impression of the girl or guy you just met often controlled what would happen in your relationship….or if there would be one. If the other party was well dressed or was well groomed on that day, it may have made a difference. Were the guys shoes polished or scuffed? Was his belt old and falling apart? Were his fingernails clean (or was polish coming off her nails or did it look like he or she had biting them down to the nubs?) In other words dress the way you would for church and to IMPRESS.
I tell my clients (and attorneys) that on trials involving Accidents , DUI’s and transactional matters like corporate business matters, real estate etc. that when they get within a few miles of the courthouse they should become the most courteous driver around as that person next to you may become your juror. Since most people will drive down Hwy 111 you never know if the person on your side or behind you in Rancho Mirage will also be turning Right on Oasis too when they get to the Larson Justice Center. If you cut them off in Indian Wells or flipped them off in La Quinta they may remember you… though you may not remember them. It could be that the person driving next to you observed you talking on your phone or being a discourteous driver. I also suggest to my clients and attorneys that when they get to the courthouse they should say good morning to everyone, as you do not know if THEY will be your jurors.
I also advise my clients that they not drive an expensive car. You do not want to stand out as someone wealthy who does not need the money you are asking for in an accident case. Nor do you want to come across as the wealthy defendant who has lots of money to pay the other side. This admonition includes not having you or your wife and family attending the trial arriving in expensive suits, dresses and jewelry. The last trial I had in LA before I moved here almost 20 years ago was someone who was wealthy and was hit and injured by someone who worked for Disney in Burbank. Unfortunately the trial was in Burbank and it is hard, as they say, to win against the “Mouse that Roared”. My client had gone to an expert Ortho in Century City with a National reputation. The defense had a well-manicured orthopedist who had been retired for 15 years with beautiful, well groomed white hair who looked like Dr. Marcus Welby (for those of you old enough to remember that TV show.)
Our doctor testified to a surgical procedure he utilized that was so new the defense doctor had never heard of it. People in the court room were laughing at the defense doctor and court personnel were also smirking during his testimony that was obviously out dated. This trial was shortly after the 1994 earthquake in LA and the Van Nuys court was using trailers as the courtrooms were not safe. If you happened to have stomach problems and were using the bathroom it was on the other side of the thin wall to the jury room and you could hear snippets of what they were saying.
We were shocked when we heard about comments from the jurors who came to the defense of the doctor who looked so professional. They also talked about my client’s wife and daughters wearing very expensive dresses and jewelry. They commented, did you see the “designer “dress and jewelry the girls were wearing? The jurors commented my client did not need the extra money. In other words they came to the defense of the doctor who was so well groomed. We still got a great verdict but it could have been bigger.
I tell all my clients on accidents and DUI’s to take down their social media while the case is going on. The newest thing is for the insurance defense lawyer, in an accident case, or the DA in a DUI, to Facebook the party and witnesses. If arrested for a DUI with a traffic accident then posts on Facebook bragging that you had 12 beers at the Nest and were drunk and drag racing down Frank Sinatra last night, will not help your DUI case. Obviously, on a DUI’s arrest any Facebook pictures of you with drinks at numerous parties will probably hinder your chances of success. It goes without saying that any comments about your drinking habits and how drunk you got the night of your arrest will make it more challenging for your lawyer to present you in a positive light.
With an accident case any Facebook pictures or posts of the injured Plaintiff playing tennis, golf or touch football at the beach is not consistent with their complaint that they were so sore they could not do anything. Posting about your game at Big League Dreams Ball Park is inconsistent with your injury complaints. Though jurors are not supposed to use computers or read the papers about the case on which they are sitting we learn that some do. Statistics show that many jurors will look you up on Facebook and other social media and that can only hurt your legal matter.
In the past the defense would utilize Sub Rosa investigations by a private investigator who would take pictures of the defendant carrying the garbage out or running and playing football with their kids. These could only hurt their case. In this age of computers it is more important than ever before to not say you are hurt and cannot do something and then be caught doing so on line. That could sink your case.