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Effects of the Dynamite Charge on the Deliberations of Deadlocked Mock Juries

NCJ Number
Law and Human Behavior Volume: 17 Issue: 6 Dated: (December 1993) Pages: 625-643
V L Smith; S M Kassin
Date Published
19 pages
Specific instructions to a deadlocked jury are discussed.
When juries report that they are deadlocked, judges often deliver the "dynamite charge," a supplemental instruction that urges jurors to rethink their views in an effort to reach a unanimous verdict. This article presents the results of a study that evaluated the impact of this procedure on 378 subjects who participated in 63 deadlocked mock juries. The study was designed with three goals in mind: to assess the impact of the dynamite charge on the perceptions and behavior of deliberating mock juries; to examine the process by which the dynamite charge coerces individuals to change their votes; and to evaluate a possible procedural alternative to the dynamite charge. Results indicated that the dynamite charge caused jurors in the voting minority to feel coerced and change their votes, reduced the pressure felt by those in the majority, and hastened the deliberation process in juries that favored conviction. The alternative to the dynamite charge, a transcript intervention designed to break the deadlock by refocusing attention on the evidence, rendered mixed results. According to the authors, these findings raise serious questions concerning the use of this controversial charge. They urge that future research address three issues: what features of the dynamite instruction causes jurors to change their votes; what is the appropriate context in which to deliver the dynamite charge; and whether the dynamite charge has more impact in some kinds of trials than in others. References


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