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Analysis of the Relations Between Jurors' Personal Attributes and Decision Making

NCJ Number
Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology Volume: 17 Issue: 2 Dated: Fall 2002 Pages: 45-53
Suman Kakar
Date Published
9 pages
Using a survey from a jury simulation study, this paper reports on an analysis of the relationship between jurors' personal and social attributes and their decisionmaking behavior.
Data were collected by survey questionnaires from a sample of 300 mock jurors selected from university students. The mock jurors were presented with a comprehensive summary of the facts and testimony from a real legal case, State v. Stewart. This case posed atypical, troubling legal issues, since it involved a wife who murdered her husband. The primary issue for the jury was to determine whether the killing was self-defense, since the woman had been previously assaulted by the husband and hospitalized. Having endured a protracted period of physical abuse, she killed her husband while he was asleep. The facts and testimony for the case were presented to the mock jury. Decision making options for the mock jurors were as follows: convict the defendant of first degree murder; convict the defendant of second degree murder; or acquit the defendant of all charges. For the analysis, these options were re-coded and dichotomized into two categories: convict the defendant and acquit the defendant. Independent variables were personal attributes and social characteristics of the jurors, as measured by age, gender, race, marital status, and religiosity, along with the social characteristics of the influence of religion on their lives, political philosophy, and exposure to violence in their own families, as well as their personal attitudes toward violence in families. Findings from this study suggest that jurors' personal and social characteristics have far less effect on their verdicts than proper jury instructions, knowledge of the law, evidence, and the factual information. Study limitations are discussed. 3 tables and 28 references


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