Understanding brain activity during personal injury trials
Whether you are a judge on the bench, a juror in the jury box or an attorney arguing the case, a personal injury trial takes a lot out of you.
What none of us usually take into account is, the human body has natural rhythms and patterns that affect our ability to absorb and process information that the courtroom process rarely take into account.
For example, it is well documented that stress causes the body to produce the hormone, cortisol, and that excess cortisol can interfere with the brain’s ability to create new memories. (See this article on the Diurnal Cortisol Cycle.) At the same time, when the body produces increased amounts of the hormone dopamine, concentration levels rise.
When I’m training for a marathon, I make sure to wear a fuel belt with water, little carbohydrate gel paks and gatorade to replenish minerals and electrolytes that my body uses while running, because everyone understands that the human system, like a machine, needs replenishment to function in top form.
So, I’m always amazed that during trial, the jury usually isn’t provided much more in the way of fuel than the bailiff or courtroom attendant pointing out where the drinking fountain can be found and how snacks can be purchased on the second floor and in the rooftop cafeteria.
This is downright weird, when you think of it. After all, trial is stressful on all the participants. The jury especially is empowered as a democratic body to weigh facts and decide on a verdict, which is hands down the most important job in the process. So, why don’t we take better care of our decision makers?
In the courtrooms where I practice, attorneys are usually permitted to bring in water bottles and can stash snacks in their bags if they are so inclined. It’s always felt awkward to me to sip my cool water when I know the jury in the box isn’t provided with the same opportunity.
Note to self: Propose that courtroom judges be asked to instruct jurors that they may bring food and drink, reasonably, into the box so they can help themselves stay alert. Appropriate limits need to be set, say water or soft drinks for consumption during testimony, snacks available in the jury room during breaks. Perhaps the attorneys can be asked to equally contribute to a fuel fund to save the state some financial burden.
Not all judges will allow for providing fuel for jurors, but some may. I think most would be willing to let the jurors know they are in a stressful job and let them know, just like my marathon trainers tell their runners, that getting the most from the experience requires proper fuel.Filed Under Courtroom Technique, Personal Injury