May 29, 2007

Jurors deliberate competently, study finds

As a former legal affairs reporter and criminal investigator who had many an opportunity to observe jury trials and interview jurors, I have always felt that the jury system is one of America's best features. It is one of the few places where people from all social classes and walks of life come together in a meaningful way and to further a common goal. Having just returned from a week of jury service myself (which I found fascinating and gratifying), I was pleased to learn that my experience is the norm.

The June 2007 issue of Small Group Research reports on a study indicating that juries do, indeed, “deliberate at a remarkably high level of competence” and that a direct link exists between the quality of deliberation and juror satisfaction. Not only that, but the jury deliberation process is a “civic education experience” that prompts many jurors to further their civic involvement.

To help understand “how often everyday juries actually engage in meaningful deliberation,” the researchers surveyed 267 municipal court jurists in Seattle regarding their experiences.

The resulting article, “Do Juries Deliberate? A Study of Deliberation, Individual Difference, and Group Member Satisfaction at a Municipal Courthouse,” is available on-line at: