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Jury Science: Holiday Colors Win Cases

Issue Number: 2
December 20th 2011

No matter how you celebrate this season, MGM Trial Services would like to wish you a happy holidays. 

This month, we are taking a moment to profile a vendor you may find useful in your practice. Meanwhile, the holiday season has got us thinking about how celebratory images make us feel. We did our research and came up with the article below. If you need to tap into the power of imagery, please call Mike at MGM Trial Services to present your testimony in HD.

Jury Science:  Holiday Colors Win Cases

 

Holiday Holly

During the holiday season, advertisers spend millions wielding the power of color. With skillfully developed graphics, trial attorneys can use that same power to make juries feel emotions like sympathy, trust, and urgency.

 When the bright fall colors fade, the world becomes a blank canvas for many hues. Among the brown trees and fallen leaves, we marvel at the brilliant green and red of the holly. When snow creates a clean white background, we bring out blue and yellow menorahs to light up windows, and we plant vibrantly decorated Christmas trees in our living

Warm orange and blue flames of menorrah candles.
Menorah Candle
rooms. Holiday shoppers stream past sunny yellow Best Buy tags, and blissfully red Coca-Cola bottles designed to appeal directly to our emotions.

In his book, Color and Meaning: Art, Science, and Symbolism, John Gageargues that our reaction to color originated deep in our ancestral past. As our ancestors hunted and foraged, their survival was dependent upon noticing the shade of blue that marked a poisonous berry, or the tan hide of a game animal among the brown bark of the trees. Lessons about color came with life and death consequences. The emotions associated with those consequences were passed down from generation to generation until the colors came to, as Gage said, "represent the products of the dreaming ancestor."

Green foliage among brown tree trunks.
Hiding in Trees

The ancient force of color is well understood by modern advertisers. In 1940, Max Luscherdeveloped a test which purported to accurately predict personality based solely on color preference. Luscher discovered that blue was the most universally beloved color, while yellow was liked the least. Since then, corporations have spent millions every year studying the impact of color in advertising with remarkable results.

The emotional impact of different hues is cultural, but powerful, explains Gage. Companies worked hard to convince people that orange and red are calls to action. Colourlover.com shows website after website where the "buy" or "Add to My Shopping" cart buttons are orange, red, or pink. When a customer goes to the website, they may already associate red with action, but when they buy something that association becomes stronger. A smart lawyer can borrow the heavy lifting of all those advertising dollars byassociating a preferred verdict with reds and oranges.

A red power button on a remote con
Remote control with red "power" button.
Mounted police in blue uniforms.
Police in security blue.

A lawyer seeking to evoke sympathy may choose a green hue to symbolize a client's suffering, just as entertainment companies use greens, blacks, and browns to advertise their melodramas. An expert witness may seem more trustworthy when associated with the same primary blue that banks and law enforcement use to convey security. However, there is a subtle, if important difference between security blue and the icy cold blue of a prison cell.

Based on Max Luscher's studies, yellow was the least preferred color, but since then it has come to mean optimism. Gage explains that Kodak company changed that perception by chemically adjusting how yellow came through on their film. Kodak reconfigured the film to represent yellow clearer and sunnier.

A Kodak yellow tulip.
Kodak film made yellow warmer.

Similarly, trial attorneys must carefully choose the colors associated with the graphics presented in their case, and they must make sure that their technology will deliver the right tone and hue for their chosen colors. Courtroom presentations requiring projectors or the use of monitors should be delivered on high quality equipment and should be operated by expert technicians. Color used well can evoke the childlike innocence of the holiday season, or the mature security of a beat cop. With the proper use of graphics, a convincing trial presentation can do both.

Partner Spotlight: 

A Unique Model for Expert Testimony

Don Waite is well connected in the medical community. He uses those connections to find scientists who will testify as experts, then provides the support they need to do their jobs well.

Expert Witness

Medical Science Affiliates (MSA) operates almost like a guild. It is not a referral service, which can feel like a Yellow Pages of scientific expertise. Nor is it a headhunter for scientists looking to find jobs testifying. If an attorney approaches them seeking an expert witness, MSA taps their extensive connections in the medical field. By going directly to the medical community, MSA president Don Waite can find well-qualified scientists who are immune to impeachment for testimony in earlier cases.

After graduating from the University of Maryland, Waite worked at and eventually ran multiple Fortune 500 medical groups. He is a soft-spoken father of three who sits on the board of a Baltimore health company. In the course of his business, Waite meets with scientists who are, as he says, "known in their industry, that may have a strong publishing background, that have done a fair amount of clinical work." For many of these scientists, the only thing they have not done is put together a report for use in court.

"Some attorneys get tired of using the same expert over and over and over again," said Waite. An attorney's go-to witness may be unavailable, or an expert may get so accustomed to working on a particular side that their objectivity and credibility are compromised. Another important reason to bring in a new expert is to avoid troublesome voir dire questions that can make the witness look like a hired gun. "I try to bring in people who are new to the arena, who have been minimally exposed." But finding a witness is only the beginning of MSA's investment.

Scientists at the top of their field are usually over-worked. They seldom have the staff to dig through the copious documents provided during discovery. MSA has administrative professionals who search the records, find relevant materials, and organize the information for the expert's use. There is even an on-staff librarian to find relevant studies. All of this helps witnesses feel comfortable and confident in their findings, even in complex cases.

When the case requires scientists with more than one expertise, MSA can help coordinate the team. In one recent Maryland case, MSA worked with three different defense experts to secure a verdict that was far lower than even the settlement offer. Waite said, "We want everyone to be guided by the science, and that's their focus."

This dedication to science gives trial lawyers an objective assessment of their case before litigation begins, through filings and settlements, and into depositions and trial if needed. But even before litigation begins, Medical Science Affiliates can put together teams of experts to perform confidential assessments. These teams provide an outside perspective, as well as expertise that companies do not always have on staff.

It is this neutrality that makes MSA so valuable to many attorneys. "In medicine and science there are a lot of gray areas... Unfortunately, the court system wants to say that something is absolute." With MSA's support, Waite believes that expert witnesses gather the facts that they need to be more confident and authoritative in their findings. Waite said, "It's kind of like a custom house. We customize it to each lawyer and their need, and each expert and their need."

 

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