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Violence Shaping Verdicts

NCJ Number
ABA Journal Volume: 88 Dated: February 2002 Pages: 36-39
Mark Curriden
Date Published
February 2002
4 pages
This article describes the difference in verdicts by jurors since the September 11th terrorist attacks.
Lawyers, judges, and jury experts are now starting to debate the impact of the events of September 11th on America’s jury system. This impact could change the way litigators practice law. Jurors are a product of their environment and life experiences, says an expert of juror attitudes. Lately, jurors have been claiming that the events had made them much more aware of people’s rights and basic principles of justice. They are paying more attention to the jury charge that it is the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Some claim it will manifest itself case to case, jury to jury, or even juror to juror. The problem for lawyers is judging how the attacks affect jurors and their thinking. Some jury experts believe what happened could have minimal, short-lived repercussions while others see long-term changes in the justice system. The attacks seemed to have made communities more cohesive. The result could be fewer hung juries. People trust the government more when it comes to public safety. The improved status of police and firefighters has clear implications. The police will likely get the benefit of the doubt when they testify about the conduct of criminal defendants during trial. The most immediate impact is in cases involving Middle Eastern men. Attorneys representing Arabs and Muslims in criminal cases need to keep seeking continuances to allow the bitter feelings held by most Americans to subside. Jury experts are telling their clients to address the September 11 events head-on during voir dire. Jurors may be less tolerant of frivolous lawsuits, but, on the other hand, more willing to harshly punish corporations that do not accept responsibility for bad conduct. One big change because of the attacks has been more interest in jury duty. There has been a reversal in a decade-long decline in public participation in jury service. Jurors are also appearing more attentive during trials and are taking longer in deliberations.


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