I previously described the high-level findings of the Seventh Circuit’s American Jury Project – click here for that post, including links to PDFs of the report and related documents. Having discussed the Commission’s findings, I am now looking at findings for the specific Principles studied. This post focuses on twelve person juries.
In seventeen trials, counsel were allowed to make interim statements before or after witness testimony and at the end or beginning of each week, as follows:
- Counsel could make interim statements before or after their questioning of a witness, on either direct or cross;
- The statements were given outside the presence of fact witnesses;
- Counsel could object having interim statements just as in an opening or closing, but could not respond to them, to avoid excessive contentiousness;Advance notice of interim statements was not required;
- Counsel’s statements for a trial were time-limited at the start of trial; and
- Counsel were given ten minutes at the end and beginning of each trial week to summarize old testimony or preview the coming testimony.
83% of judges using interim statements would use them again and believed they assisted juror understanding. No judge reported abuse of interim statements. Most judges that did not try interim statements believed they would decrease trial efficiency.
Both trial counsel and jurors agreed with the judges that interim statements improved trials. 90% of jurors thought the interim statements were helpful for introducing or summarizing evidence.
The Commission suggests courts use interim statements for trials lasting longer than one week. The longer a trial runs, interim statements become both more helpful and more critical to juror understanding.