-Survey Design

     We design a change of venue survey tailored to your case, to answer these and other questions:

  1.  Do local jury-eligible adults know the name of the defendant or others involved in the case?

  2.  Most importantly, have they formed an opinion about the defendant’s guilt or innocence? 

  3.  How much pretrial publicity have they been exposed to and from what sources?

  4.  What details of the case are they aware of?

  5.  Is there community pressure to convict the defendant?  

  6.   What are the demographics of the sample and population? We gather information on variables such as race, age, gender, education, and income in order to match the sample to the population and to identify variables predictive of bias for use in jury selection.


                    -Sampling and Administration

     In collaboration with a professional polling company, Thoroughbred Research Group (TRG), we administer the survey to a large representative sample of jury-eligible county residents by telephone, using the random digit dialing technique.


                    -Data Analysis and Report

     Statistical analyses of the results are performed and a report is written for submission to the court.  The report and testimony include Dr. Hamilton's expert opinion as to how difficult it would be to seat an unbiased jury in the county in which the crime took place, and, if other counties have been surveyed, her opinion concerning those counties as well.  Included in the report is a discussion of Dr. Hamilton's and others’ scholarly research on jury attitudes and behaviors in high pretrial publicity cases.  For example, experiments demonstrate that although jurors tend to believe they can put aside prior information and assume that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty, they often cannot.  Prospective jurors are subject to strong but subtle psychological forces such as the backfire effect, source amnesia, their own trust that the legal system only puts the guilty on trial, the confirmatory bias, community pressure, the self-fulfilling prophecy effect, social desirability pressure, and last but definitely not least, "prehabilitation" pressure from judge and attorneys.  (Prehabilitation is a term Dr. Hamilton coined in connection with her scholarly research on poor voir dire practices.)  Any one of these psychological forces can make it very difficult for jurors to remain unbiased.  The fact that most often all of the forces work together renders it virtually impossible.

                    -Expert testimony

     At the change of venue hearing Dr. Hamilton and a TRG representative give expert testimony concerning survey administration and results.

                    -Content Analysis of Pretrial Publicity

     As part of the change of venue survey package, we can also do quantitative and qualitative analysis of PTP.  The analysis will answer such questions as:  How much TV, newspaper, radio, and online coverage has appeared?  What aspects of the crime have been emphasized?  How prominent have the defendant's, victim's, and/or witnesses' names been?  Have the various news sources offered opinions about the defendant's guilt or innocence?  How sensationalistic and emotionally charged has the coverage been?

II.  Persuasive Argument, Witness Preparation, and Witness Interview Techniques

    Kate Zephyrhawke's specialty is teaching speakers to avoid common communication mistakes, how to persuade, and how to present themselves and their knowledge in the best light.  Individual preparation of witnesses, group or individual instruction for attorneys.

III.  Change of Venue Survey Critiques

     If the other side has commissioned a change of venue survey, Dr. Hamilton can assess the survey instrument, the results, and the report.  The way in which questions are asked, the order in which they appear on the survey, data analyses, and interpretation of findings are all subject to error.   For example, the plaintiff’s attorneys in a Hurricane Katrina case in Gulfport, Mississippi hired Dr. Hamilton to critique the insurance company's change of venue motion.  She revealed significant flaws in the survey questions and in the expert witness’s analysis and interpretation of the results, which resulted in denial of the change of venue motion.


IV.  Mock Jury Trials and Focus Groups

     We can help with the set-up of mock jury trials and focus groups, write and administer pre and post surveys and interviews, analyze the results, and work with attorneys to understand the best trial arguments and approaches.

V.  Jury Selection

    Mykol Hamilton and/or Kate Zephyrhawke assist in jury selction using scientific jury selection techniques.  In death penalty cases we employ the Colorado Method of Life Qualification.  © Mykol C. Hamilton 2014