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Jury selection is generally a process relegated to psychology experts, folks trained to look at subtle body expressions and make assessments to help attorneys get an edge on the opposition. Analytics is thought to be based on hard calculus and objective criteria, completely distinct from the nuanced, emotional work of jury consulting, which makes The Jury Lab's use of emotional facial recognition software for jury analysis a little surprising.
The Jury Lab is the project of Susan Constantine, a Florida-based jury consultant who has examined juries in high-profile cases like those of George Zimmerman and Casey Anthony. Constantine recently partnered with facial recognition platform Affectiva to tailor its software for jury analysis, which requires the technology to read and draw data from up to 12 faces simultaneously. Constantine uses the data to provide clients with a strategic consultation about jury reactions.
Here's a look at The Jury Lab and its application of technology for jury analysis.
Who it serves: As with any jury consulting, The Jury Lab is aimed at trial attorneys. Constantine said that the program can best serve in high-stakes trial work, though it's unclear whether this is simply a business strategy or a facet of the technology. "It's not designed for the $50,000, $100,000 settlements, it's designed for a larger trial where there are big wins or huge losses," she said.
What it does: Constantine explained that the technology piece of The Jury Lab's analysis tracks movements points on all jurors' faces simultaneously and compares them to an enormous database of facial expressions to measure responses for feelings like contempt or disgust. The data is then reported back to analysts like Constantine, who give a read for potential emotions and the degree of certainty with which the software has matched that expression to that emotion. While other facial recognition platforms often read for emotional intensity, Constantine said assessing a jury "has nothing to do with intensity. It has to do with certainty."
Does tech actually work here? Jury consulting, like most areas of law, is not one with much established trust in new technology. Most jury consultants continue to rely on juror questionnaires and expert analysis to get a feel for how juries might rule. But The Jury Lab is certainly not the first company to experiment with using technology to research jurors. Vijilent Inc., another startup in this area, scrapes data from potential jurors' social media platforms to get a sense of how they might emotionally respond to different content. There are even phone apps for less than $40 that promise to help attorneys keep track of juror's written and physical responses.
Andrew Guthrie Ferguson, professor of law at the University of the District of Columbia, told the ABA Journal that he believes big data can be a huge asset to the jury selection process. Constantine said the software underlying The Jury Lab has a 95 percent effectiveness rate, but since it just launched last week, it seems that the jury's still out on how this technology could impact this field.
Pairing consultant insight with technology: The Jury Lab is a part of Constantine's jury consulting services, meaning that attorneys cannot contract for use of the facial recognition technology alone. "It's not the collection of the data; it's the analyzing the data with a high level of sophistication, the training, knowing what to look for and how to analyze it" that Constantine believes requires expert analysis to accompany the technology.
Constantine has found thus far that using the facial recognition has added to her ability to offer strategic advice to trial attorneys. "It's great because there's only one of me and only two eyes. Now I have 12 sets of eyes. It really helps to hone in and can watch a jury pool as a group at the exact moment. It helps me to collect the data and categorize the data and provide a very sophisticated output in a report," she said.