How do jurors argue with one another?

Abstract( via Warren & Kuhn)

We asked jurors awaiting trial assignment to listen to a recorded synopsis of an authentic criminal trial and to make a choice among 4 verdict possibilities. Each participant juror then deliberated with another juror whose verdict choice differed, as a microcosm of a full jury’s deliberation. Analysis of the transcripts of these deliberations revealed both characteristics general to the sample and characteristics for which variation appeared across participants. Findings were interpreted in terms of a model of juror reasoning as entailing theory-evidence coordination. More frequently than challenging the other’s statements, we found, a juror agreed with and added to or elaborated them. Epistemological stance — whether knowledge was regarded as absolute and certain or subject to interpretation — predicted several characteristics of discourse. Absolutists were less likely to make reference to the verdict criteria in their discourse. Those who did so, as well as those who made frequent reference to the evidence, were more likely to persuade their discourse partners.

Rozin (2009) has argued recently that some phenomena are of such broad social significance that they warrant whatever, even imperfect light we are able to shed on them. The discourse by means of which jurors reach their verdict decisions arguably falls into this category. Jury deliberation is a component of a democratic legal system traditionally shrouded in secrecy. Even if it were more available to external observers, the complexity of 12 individuals engaged in largely unconstrained dialog about controversial and often intricate matters is so great as to challenge analysis of the process. Unsurprisingly, then, the bulk of jury research has been devoted to an examinationof influences on jury outcomes, rather than the deliberation process itself. The research that does exist on the deliberation process typically is concerned with social influence processes, and has little to say about the phenomenon of key interest to us here — the reasoning by means of which jurors influence one another.

In the work reported here, we undertook to gain insight into the dialogic reasoning that occurs during jury deliberation by reducing its complexity, looking at just a microcosm, albeit an arguably authentic one, of the larger process. Jurors awaiting trial assignment were asked to listen to a tape-recorded synopsis constructed from the transcript of an actual trial and to make a verdict judgment. Two jurors whose judgments differed were then asked to deliberate, as they might in a jury room, and to try to reach agreement with one another regarding the proper verdict. In the present article, we examine some of the characteristics of this discourse, including both characteristics general to the sample and characteristics for which variation appeared across participants.

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About Miguel Barbosa

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26. March 2010 by Miguel Barbosa
Categories: Curated Readings, Psychology & Sociology | Leave a comment

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