This fall, one of the new shows we'll see on CBS is Bull, starring Michael Weatherly as Dr. Jason Bull, the founder of a successful trial consulting firm. The series premiere airs Tuesday, September 20, 2016 at 9/8c. The show is based on Dr. Phil McGraw's trial consulting firm - yes, that Dr. Phil, in his days prior to becoming a talk show host. You can check out the show's preview in the video below, but does the show actually provide a feasible premise?
What is Trial Consulting?
Trial consulting firms exist to help attorneys improve their arguments and presentation during trials, for both criminal and civil lawsuits. Typically, it involves the use of psychologists, economists, communication experts, and other social scientists.
Jury selection isn't what we see on television. We see the dramatic part of the trial to drive along the story line. Bull on the other hand, aims to provide a closer look at the other side of things - how the jurors are selected.
Psychological Profiling and the Jury Selection Process
The jury of 12 people we see in the courtroom always begins with a much larger pool. Each potential juror is asked if there are any reasons why can or should be disqualified from serving on a jury. In most cases, these are convicted criminals or people who have other serious commitments like being the primary caregiver for a child or elderly loved one, that would prevent them from serving.
But, imagine being someone who lost a child, sibling, or spouse as a result of a drunk driving accident, and being asked to serve on the jury for a drunk driver who's about to be tried for a hit and run that resulted in the victim's death. This life experience will color your ability to be objective during the trial, and thus you'd more than likely be dismissed from jury duty.
That's what psychological profiling does. Looking at a variety of metrics like where you're from, the kind of money you make, your values and morals, past life experiences, and personality traits in general, trial consultants and attorneys can get a model picture of what the ideal juror should look like to get the desired case outcome - and then attempt to ensure only those types of jurors are selected to serve.
During jury selection, each attorney gets to object to a juror, which is what helps the crowd get whittled down from a room full of people to the 12 who decide the defendant's fate.
Since many cases are now decided outside of a trial in settlement these days, trial consulting firms are offering additional services such as witness preparation, mock trials, and community attitude to surveys, to help attorneys prepare the best arguments possible.
Does Bull Make Sense?
Most of the time, I'm a skeptic when it comes to the way Hollywood portrays anything on TV. I poke holes in plots and loathe shows that require me to suspend reality to enjoy them. But, in this case, I'm thinking it's going to give us a good look at what goes on in the pre-trial stages - something that's definitely underrepresented on the screen.
Will you be watching?