Everyone has their own biases, and people who serve on juries are no exception. And these biases can change the outcome of a trial if jurors’ minds can’t be swayed.
In order to probe potential jurors for bias, lawyers typically have only about 15 minutes to ask them questions in a process called “voir dire,” which literally means “to look and speak.” But with all of the information about jurors that can be found online, such as social media profiles and other public records, lawyers can better make use of their voir dire time with some advance prep. That’s where Chapel Hill-based Jury-X comes in.
Jury-X combines software with a proprietary method to analyze data to find bias in potential jurors before they are even interviewed, as well as helping lawyers craft questions to sniff out bias during voir dire.
CEO Tiffany Devereux said she was inspired to launch Jury-X after working with her brother, an attorney in Florida, who was arguing cases against the tobacco industry. It was vital for him to find unbiased jurors who recognized nicotine addiction as a problem that causes lung cancer, so she developed a system to help him.
Now her brother’s law firm is just one of 70 clients that use Jury-X.
“I am passionate about the wrongs the tobacco companies have done,” Devereux said, “and that’s what led me into this. We are still very passionate. I have a lot of people who work for me who are passionate about different types of cases we’re involved in where a corporation has done wrong, and people have suffered as a result.”
Jury-X helps lawyers make better use of their voir dire time by categorizing potential jurors. This method is not new—it has been used by lawyers since at least the 1970s—but Jury-X incorporates data analytics into this process and uses its trademarked X-Bias Scale, a system that helps decide whether a juror will be unbiased or not. Jury-X also gives lawyers recommendations on what they should ask jurors going into the voir dire process.
Even though Jury-X gives attorneys a leg up on their voir dire interviews, the two still go hand-in-hand.
“It’s imperative that we have the voir dire process where the attorneys are asking questions,” Devereux said, “because we don’t solely rely on the information that we gather beforehand.”
Devereux has bootstrapped Jury-X since its inception in 2013. It now employs about 70 people in its Chapel Hill office. It is most known and used by law firms in Florida, Devereux said, because that is where Jury-X’s first cases came from. There are around 5,000 cases against the tobacco companies still pending in Florida.
“There’s no other company that is doing the same type of research, using the same method of research and same categorization that Jury-X uses,” Devereux said, “and we are very passionate about helping people who often don’t have a voice in the eyes of civil litigation. Many times they are going against large companies, and that is really where a lot of our passion and drive comes from.”