Personality in the Jury Room
- Steve Williamson, VP Digital Marketing and Content, eRep, Inc.
- Monday, October 16, 2023
I recently served as a juror on a criminal trial. What I found most interesting was not the prosecution or defense, but the personalities of my fellow jurors, one of whom nearly derailed our deliberations due to their Core Values Index™ personality type.
The case involved a grandfather who was charged with six counts of felony sexual abuse of his granddaughter while she was in first through third grade. There were no witnesses as he only committed the crimes when nobody else was around.
In this particular type of criminal case, there was no hard evidence like DNA or video of the alleged incidents that took place over a three year span. Everything the prosecution used to prove their case involved testimony.
The prosecution called a half dozen witnesses to the stand who testified on behalf of the victim. The defense only called one person to the stand, the defendant himself.
We heard testimony from the victim as well as her parents — the victim's father is the accused's son — all three generations of this family lived in the same household. Even the accused's wife (and the grandmother of the victim) testified on the victim's behalf.
One key witness the prosecutor brought to the stand was a forensic interviewer from the department of children services. This individual is highly trained in techniques and methodologies to interview child victims of abuse, with a focus on getting to the truth without "leading the witness" as the saying goes.
In addition to the testimony given by the forensic interviewer during the trial itself, we watched a video of her 1+ hour interview with the victim.
After we heard closing arguments and myself and the other eleven jurors went into the jury room to deliberate, bookies in Vegas would probably have given strong odds to the prosecution. The bulk of the testimony given was in support of the prosecution's case, and the only testimony on behalf of the defense was the accused denying most of it on the witness stand.
It is important to note that the accused admitted to exposing himself to his granddaughter, yet exposure to a minor was not one of the crimes of which he was charged.
Our first task as a jury was to elect a foreperson. Myself and a woman we'll call Jennifer raised our hands to volunteer. Her and I discussed it briefly and I deferred to her for the role as she was much more talkative than I was and I could sense that she would have enjoyed the responsibility. This was a good decision as she did a great job at keeping the group focused while always making forward progress.
One of the other jurors began to stand out from the rest, though. We'll call him Mr. Burns.
Meet Mr. Burns
Mr. Burns was quiet during the jury's discussion of the testimonial evidence, but when he did speak up, it was always to express one form of doubt or another.
This gentleman repeatedly voiced his concern that we didn't have enough evidence to prove anything. He said that, in his view, it all came down to the testimony between two individuals — a classic he said/she said situation — and that wasn't enough to convict.
Over the course of a four-hour deliberation, consensus grew toward conviction. All except for Mr. Burns.
We took an informal vote where each juror had the opportunity to indicate how they were likely to vote and to explain their reasoning. All but Mr. Burns indicated their conclusion that the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Too Many Doubts
Mr. Burns said he had too many doubts and couldn't at that point vote to convict. Fortunately he gave us a list of his key concerns. The top of his list was, "I think the victim believes she is telling the truth, but that doesn't mean what she says is actually the truth."
Take a mental note about what Mr. Burns said, as it will be part of a pivotal turn in our deliberations described below.
When it was my turn, instead of addressing the group, I turned to Mr. Burns.
There was something about his personality that made me realize he likely wanted a greater level of assurance than was necessary.
Mr. Burns wanted more data and information than was available or required to reach the burden of proof demanded by the court.
I explained, "As the prosecutor informed us at the beginning of the trial, there is no hard physical evidence in this case. It will all come down to the depth and breadth of testimony from various witnesses."
My explanation further elaborated on the concept that our burden of proof only needed to be above a certain level of assurance but wasn't absolute. "If you feel that the amount and quality of testimony is high enough to remove reasonable doubt, that's all you need to determine."
I added, "None of us can know with laser-like accuracy exactly what happened — only the victim and the accused know that — but we don't have to. All we need to do is determine if the evidence we've been given through testimony is enough to draw a conclusion."
I closed with a question. "You stated you feel the victim believes she is telling the truth. Have you seen any evidence to make you think she isn't?"
Mr. Burns silently thought about this for a good ten seconds, then said with a noticeable tone of confidence in his voice, "No."
He then paused, and said, "I think I have what I need. I'm ready to convict."
Remember Jennifer, our foreperson? It was at this point she leaned toward me and said, "I think I want you to be the jury foreman. Is that okay?"
A bit perplexed, I said, "Alright. But why don't you want to do it?"
She smiled and shrugged and said, "I don't want to deal with the serious stuff and I think you'd be better at it."
The rest of the jury took a quick verbal vote and officially made me the jury foreman.
Up to this point I thought Jennifer had done a great job. She kept us focused, made sure everyone had a voice, and solicited elaboration when anyone expressed doubts or questions.
She just wasn't interested once things got official. It wasn't in her particular comfort zone.
I read aloud each of the charges as described in the jury worksheet they gave us and called for official votes. Mr. Burns confidently raised his hand each time and I noted down the results.
After we returned to the courtroom and the verdicts were read, the judge dismissed the jury and we filed out through our special door. We were escorted out of the building and once outside, Mr. Burns came up alongside me, smiling wide.
A Burden Lifted
Beforehand, Mr. Burns was serious and full of doubt and concern in the jury room, now he was jovial and happy — and relieved. As we walked toward our cars, Mr. Burns thanked me for explaining the situation to him. He said he was confident he made the right decision once he understood how the burden of proof applied in this case.
It was at that moment I confirmed in my mind my previous suspicion that Mr. Burns' likely Core Values Index personality type had a primary core value energy of Banker.
In the context of CVI personality profiles, a Banker's primary motivation and joy is to gather data and information. The opposite of a Banker's motivation is their greatest fear and source of anxiety: to be ignorant.
The worst thing a Banker can imagine saying is, "I don't know."
The opposite of a person's Core Values Index primary motivation is their greatest fear.
In the case of Mr. Burns, my explanation to him helped him to see the boundaries of what qualified for enough information. I showed him that the information he had at his disposal was adequate and he was not required to know everything. In fact, it was impossible for him or anyone else to know everything about what happened except for the victim and perpetrator.
Once Mr. Burns realized that he had enough data and information to make a decision, he was able to do so.
Jennifer, on the other hand, likely had Merchant as her primary core value energy. She enjoyed starting the process and getting everyone pulling together toward a common goal. Once it came time to drop the social aspect of jury deliberations and actually make things happen in an official capacity, she lost her motivation.
I took two key lessons from this experience.
First, it helps to understand another person's Core Values Index personality profile when communicating. If you can tailor your message to fit the way they see the world and how they prefer to operate within it, your efforts will be more successful.
Second, the CVI doesn't measure strengths and weaknesses per se but it does measure preferences. Your preferred way of doing things and the type of things you prefer to do will play a huge role in the kind of activities you pursue. Perhaps most importantly, it will determine the kind of activities where you will have the greatest chance to excel.
If I had explained things to Mr. Burns as if he was a Merchant, Builder or Innovator, my approach would have been very different. Or, at the very least, he would have perceived my explanation through an entirely different lens.
Core Values Index™ and CVI™ are trademarks of Taylor Protocols, Inc.
Go to eRep.com/core-values-index/ to learn more about the CVI or to take the Core Values Index assessment.
Innovator/Banker - VP Digital Marketing and Content, eRep, Inc.
Steve has a career in project management, software development and technical team leadership spanning three decades. He is the author of a series of fantasy novels called The Taesian Chronicles (ruckerworks.com), and when he isn't writing, he enjoys cycling, old-school table-top role-playing games, and buzzing around the virtual skies in his home-built flight simulator.
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