Experimental Research on Jury Decision-Making

by Robert J. MacCoun


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Jury verdicts directly affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the United States every year and serve a bellwether function in plea bargaining and settlement negotiations. But because juries deliberate in secret, legal policymakers have made important decisions about the scope and conduct of jury trials on the basis of untested intuitions about how juries reach verdicts. In this review of research on jury behavior, the author emphasizes the use of mock jury experiments to test hypotheses and refine theoretical models of the decision process. Because jury decisionmaking involves two different phases — cognitive processing during the trial and deliberation in the jury room — the author reviews research on both the trial and deliberation phases of the judgment process. In keeping with the emphasis of most jury research, he focuses primarily on decisionmaking in criminal trials; the extent to which the findings can be applied to civil litigation is discussed in RAND/N-2671.

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