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American Jury: Handicapped in the Pursuit of Justice (From Criminal Courts for the 21st Century, P 264-288, 1999, Lisa Stolzenberg and Stewart J. D'Alessio, eds. -- See NCJ-186588)

NCJ Number
Saul M. Kassin
Date Published
25 pages
This article examines nonevidentiary social influences on the jury.
The article examines influences that emanate from various trial practices and threaten to compromise a litigant's right to a fair trial. Broadly defined, there are two phases in the jury's decision making task that are at risk: the factfinding competence of individual jurors and the deliberation of the jury as a group. This evaluation of juries is based on the results of controlled behavioral research, not on abstract legal theory, isolated case studies, or trial anecdotes. Jurors are expected to base their opinions on an accurate appraisal of evidence to the exclusion of nonevidentiary sources of information. But, according to this article, American courts too often permit counsel to: (1) use surrogates to present deposition testimony for absentee witnesses; (2) impart information through conjecture and innuendo; and (3) invite jurors to draw adverse inferences from missing witnesses. In addition, procedures and structural changes intended to speed jury deliberations and avoid hung juries have weakened dissent, bred closed-mindedness, lowered the quality of discussion, and left many jurors unsatisfied with the final verdict. The article concludes that, while prescriptions for how juries should function are clear, in reality, the American jury is too often handicapped in the pursuit of justice. Notes


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