Over the past few years, there has been a great deal of commentary about differences between the generations in American society. According to this literature, members of the Baby Boom, Gen X and Gen Y (or Millennials) have unique attributes and tendencies that differentiate them from members of the other generations. The generations are most often contrasted in terms of their attitudes toward the government, their feelings about work and family, and their use of information technology. Some have gone so far as to say that generational differences play an important part in the way jurors perceive the evidence presented at trial, and that litigators and trial consultants must therefore consider age when developing a trial strategy, preparing exhibits, and evaluating prospective jurors during voir dire.
There are certainly interesting differences between the generations. For example, the use of information technology varies significantly with a person’s age, with younger Americans using the Internet much more frequently than their elders. And whether a person came of age during the ‘60s, the ‘80s, or during this decade could certainly affect that person’s beliefs about how the world works.
But none of these differences necessarily mean that jurors of different ages will see the same case differently. Jurors hold varying attitudes about the world, regardless of their age or generational cohort. Rather than assuming that a juror is more likely to be adverse to your client’s case because she belongs to a certain generation, the more direct and effective approach during voir dire is to ask the juror directly about attitudes relevant to the case.
In fact, the best evidence I’ve seen suggests there is no relationship between jurors’ ages and their verdicts. I don’t recall reading a peer-reviewed article on juror decision-making that linked age (or generational membership) to a juror’s verdict. And in my work, having analyzed tens of thousands of mock jurors’ verdict preferences, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a significant connection between jurors’ ages and their verdicts. So when it comes to jurors and how they decide a case, age doesn’t seem to matter.