What is the ‘Nerd Defense’?

What is the ‘Nerd Defense’?One of my colleagues once recalled a case that went bad from the start because the jury got the wrong impression of his client. My friend carefully instructed his client to remain engaged during the long jury selection process. He suggested that the young man doodle on a notepad so it looked like he was taking notes. After this part of the trial ended, my friend turned to the counsel table and discovered, to his horror, that the young man had slept through the whole thing.

During jury trials, appearance matters. Sometimes, it matters almost as much as the evidence or legal arguments in the case. That’s where the “nerd defense” comes into play. There is scientific evidence that jurors have more favorable opinions of defendants who wear eyeglasses.

Does It Really Work?

In some situations, the effect is rather minimal. Eyeglasses do not make much of a difference in white collar criminal cases. That may be because the jury already expects these defendants to look nerdy. But in other cases, it can be profound.

The nerd defense is sometimes controversial. Parker County prosecutors are wise to this tactic. If a lawyer tells a defendant to wear a pair of vanity glasses, the prosecutor may point out this fact during questioning. The jury could then get the impression that the defense attorney is trying to manipulate them. And, of course, that’s exactly what the attorney is trying to do.

How Does It Affect My Case?

In many ways, the nerd defense is an extension of other tried-and-true tactics. Your appearance matters. We usually instruct defendants to dress for court like they would dress for church. Tailored suits are probably out of place, but so are shorts or worn-out blue jeans.

Appearances outside the courtroom are important as well. In Tarrant County, most jurors wear “Juror” nametags. Always allow these people to go into the elevator ahead of you, take the one vacant bathroom stall, and so on. One never knows when one of these jurors may decide your case.

That’s good advice for lawyers as well. Another of my colleagues once told a story of an attorney who cut off a juror in the parking lot. During deliberations, the jury reduced the amount of compensation the plaintiff received, so “that lawyer couldn’t afford to buy another Porsche.”

Appearance-related defenses, like the nerd defense, sometimes are as effective as legal defenses. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth, contact Herreth Law. Convenient payment plans are available.