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American Jury on Trial: Psychological Perspectives

NCJ Number
Saul M. Kassin; Lawrence S. Wrightsman
Date Published
243 pages
This book examines the entire jury process in America, from jury selection to the delivery of a verdict, and various factors that bear on jury decisionmaking are considered.
The introductory chapter provides an overview of attitudes toward trial juries from psychological, legal, and idealistic perspectives. This is followed by a discussion of methods of jury research. Chapter 2 focuses on pretrial bias related to the demographics of the community and problems in obtaining an unbiased jury through jury selection procedures. Factors that make it difficult to select an unbiased juror are discussed. Chapter 3 presents a more in-depth discussion of what is involved in jury selection (voir dire). The science of jury selection is considered, with attention to how defense attorneys and prosecutors attempt to select jurors that will favor their side rather than be objective. Chapter 4, "Making Sense of the Evidence," considers how jurors respond to and make sense of the evidence presented at trial. Jury perceptions of various types of evidence are considered. Eyewitness testimony is discussed, along with "true" confessions and "false confessions." Chapter 5 focuses on "Nonevidentiary Temptation" that can sway juror decisionmaking, such as the physical appearance of the defendant, the attempts of attorneys to inject opinion and inadmissible evidence into courtroom proceedings, and the "empty chair doctrine." The latter pertains to juror perceptions of the failure of an attorney to call a witness who could logically resolve an issue or present relevant testimony on an issue in the case. Other chapters address how jurors and juries perceive trial procedures as either facilitating or obstructing their unbiased decisionmaking; court assistance to jurors in interpreting the law at issue; what typically happens inside the jury room, and the function of closing arguments in influencing jury decisionmaking. Chapter notes, a listing of court cases to which the book refers and name and subject indexes