Jury Decisionmaking

It goes without saying that enormous contextual differences exist among countries that underlie distinctions in the rationale for trial by jury, the manner in which trials are conducted, and the role of the jury in resolving disputes. Indeed, no jury system can be understood or analyzed devoid of its historical, cultural, and political context and origins. Beyond this acknowledgment, we will have little to say about the political or cultural underpinnings of the jury systems that we describe. Rather, we take a more practical, present-minded perspective and analyze how various jury-related issues (e.g. jury selection, the effects of publicity, jurors' use of evidence, the influence of the judge, and verdict determinations) are managed in different countries and how jurors' judgments and juries' decisions are (or may be) influenced by these choices.

To complement this practical, issue-oriented focus, we describe the results of recent research studies on several of these topics, primarily as they apply to American juries. Where possible, we include the work of non-American researchers as well, although less work has been conducted on juries outside of the US because many countries make it a crime to publish or to solicit for publication any information about what happens behind the closed doors of a jury deliberation room (Lloyd-Bostock, 1995).

As a preliminary step toward increased scientific scrutiny of the jury, we offer a variety of suggestions for future research. Because little is known about the workings of the jury in many countries, numerous questions present themselves. Do laws permitting simple majority verdicts (as exist in Scotland) effectively silence the voices of jurors in the minority faction? Do judges' summations of the evidence (as occur in Canada, Australia, and England) have inordinate influence on jurors' sentiments about the case? What use do English jurors make of knowledge that the defendant refused to answer questions asked by the police? Can lay jurors in Canada effectively gauge bias and predisposition in fellow jurors? Although we are not sanguine that answers to these questions will be soon forthcoming, we perceive slowly increasing curiosity about the workings of the jury system in many countries (witness the collection of articles in Law and Contemporary Problems), fostered in no small part by enhanced public scrutiny of the institution. But regardless of its source, we hope that this interest will spawn a surge injury-related research conducted on non-American soil. We anticipate its findings.

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