November 28, 2010

The Psychology of jury voir dire

How many times have you debriefed jurors after they rendered their verdict and been surprised by what they told you? Jurors don't deliberate based on facts and argument. They deliberate based on their perception of the facts and arguments. And it is the juror's belief system that accounts for the varying way that jurors perceive facts and arguments.

That is the start of an informative how-to piece in The Jury Expert by psychologist Matthew L. Ferrara, a trial consultant based in Austin, Texas.

The current issue of The Jury Expert has several other interesting articles, including:
Photo: "The Jury," John Morgan, 1861 (Public domain; source: Wikimedia commons)


Steve said...

"They deliberate based on their perception of the facts and arguments."

There is nothing new under the sun. Everyone deliberates based on their perceptions of facts and arguments. Argumentation is all about changing those perceptions. Or, at least, good argumentation does so.

Yes, psychological science can help budding attorneys do so better. But there is a wall: arguments can't change facts. And that is why we let juries decide factual issues.

FpsY said...

This research was very similar to my own. I examined juror attitudes to the criminal justice system similar to Pakers two competing Models of criminal justice - crime control vs due process.

Using a non standardized questionnaire and a murder trial containing circumstantial evidence, I examined jurors motivation in seeking justice, or their ideas about justice. The trial contained two theories for both the prosecution and defence as to how the murder victim died. Neither theory was compelling and jurors had to wade throught forensic testimony of the forensic pathologists theories of homicide or suicide.

I found that jurors who endorsed crime control attitudes towards the criminal justice system, used lower conviction thresholds and convicted the defended more often than jurors who endorsed due process attitudes towards justice.