Humor at Trial

I read a series of articles in Trial Magazine on cross examining experts at trial. One article revolved around a joke the lawyer made and how everyone laughed, except for the expert. The moral of the article is that the expert’s failure to laugh at the joke “showed the witness’s pomposity” and was the “key to the jury acceptance of [plaintiff’s] experts and their credibility.”

I’m sure the joke played as the author suggests. But a jury trial is typically not conducive to humor. I’ve seen many efforts at humor – including my own efforts that I thought at the time were good – fail miserably. This is particularly true in a shorter trial where the jury has not had an extended time to warm up to you and relax. Chris Rock would have a hard time being funny in an opening statement.

My advice: if you are not incredibly sure it is going to be funny, leave that club in your bag. Only an extremely funny person can get away with prepared humor during a jury trial. Not sure if you are extremely funny? You are not.

  • It’s a tough call on this one. Most attorneys, as you say, should “leave that club in the bag.” Every once in awhile there’s an exception but because the risk totally outweighs any possible benefits. Mitch/

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