Reading the reader Featured

10:04am EDT July 22, 2002
When O.J. Simpson's lead defense attorney, Johnnie Cochran, started handing out plaudits for the stunning "not guilty" verdict that ended his client's mesmerizing trial for double murder, he thanked first not his "Dream Team," nor his client (who was burning rubber back to Brentwood), but his jury consultant, Jo-Ellan Dimitrius.

Before that moment, Dimitrius was a cypher to mainstream America-blended into the background of an All-Star defense team, yet tantalizingly central to the decisions they made every day. In fact, Dimitrius had consulted in more than 600 jury trials, turning her keen people-reading skills on panelists deciding the fates of L.A. riot celebrities Rodney King and Reginald Denny, the McMartin Preschool defendants, and going on to coach defense lawyers for delusional old-money heir and murderer John duPont.

Her new book, Reading People: How to Understand People and Predict Their Behavior-Anytime, Anyplace (with co-author Mark Mazzarella), distills some of that experience into a practical guide anyone can use to learn more about the people they live and work with. "The book is basically teaching people the skills by which they can surround themselves with the quality individual that is important to them," she says. This summer, Dimitrius took a few moments from her publicity tour to speak with SBN.

Have you ever been misled or lied to in a business deal?

I'm sure I have been... We all have been.... Had I been paying more attention to the traits and characteristics we talk about in the book, I could have been more attentive and tuned in perhaps to some of those issues.

As a jury consultant, do you believe you've ever consulted for a guilty client?

I've said that I don't believe that it is ethical or professional of me to ever share with anybody publicly what my own personal impressions are.

Is there a client or case you would not take?

I've certainly been presented with some difficult situations over the years. And I'd have to say I can't think of one right offhand.

If you couldn't be a jury consultant, what would you be?

Someone involved in a lot of public speaking. I enjoy that, and I think that I bring a lot to the groups I've spoken to in the past. It's a result of my life experience.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever gotten?

"Trust your instincts." I got that from my mother.

Coming up in business, what mistake do you most wish you'd avoided?

Being too trusting of people.

What's your favorite card or board game?


What person living or dead do you most admire?

Katie Couric. She is a strong, articulate, intelligent woman who comes across like the girl next door. She's charismatic, she's compassionate, and yet she's a very strong figure as a woman.

Would you prefer personally to be liked or feared?

Liked. That's an easy one. That's just definitely part of my personality. I'm a first-born, what can I say. First-borns are generally very anxious to have people like them. That's sort of the nature of the beast.

What word or phrase do you feel you most overuse?

"In view of...." I use it a great deal, and there's probably a more appropriate way to say it.

Do you wear false eyelashes or artificial nails?

No, to both.

If you had to hide out from everyone who wanted to talk with you, where would you go?

I have no idea.