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We Can Improve the Quality of Jury Deliberations

NCJ Number
Judges' Journal Volume: 26 Issue: 4 Dated: (Fall 1987) Pages: 3-7,42-46
J L Fullin; G Myse
Date Published
10 pages
Based on use in actual trials, this Wisconsin study examined jurors', judges', and attorneys' attitudes toward preliminary jury instructions, juror notetaking, written jury instructions, and jurors' asking questions of witnesses through the judge.
Twenty-eight judges serving in 16 Wisconsin counties of varying population and geographic location volunteered to participate in the project. The judges agreed to use one or more of the four experimental techniques in their next jury trials. The techniques were randomly assigned to the judges by the researchers. The 62 trials examined were conducted between January 1984 and April 1985. Half were civil, and half were criminal trials. Responses were obtained from 511 jurors, 86 attorneys, and the 28 judges. Jurors given preliminary instructions were significantly more satisfied with the conduct of the trial than jurors not given these instructions, and judges who delivered preliminary instructions were much more satisfied with the verdict than judges who did not. Attorneys were generally favorable toward preliminary jury instructions. Judges and attorneys had no strong criticisms of the other three experimental techniques, but there was no evidence that any of the four techniques contributed to more knowledgeable jury decisionmaking. 16 footnotes.


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