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Effects of Jury Dogmatism on Reactions to Jury Nullification Instructions

NCJ Number
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin Volume: 17 Issue: 2 Dated: (April 1991) Pages: 140-146
J Kerwin; D R Shaffer
Date Published
7 pages
This study tests the hypothesis that dogmatic juries are more influenced than nondogmatic juries by the type of judge's instructions they receive.
Subjects were 216 introductory psychology students who served as members of 6-person, mock juries in return for course credit. Juries were randomly assigned to receive either standard or nullification instructions and were classified as either high or low in jury dogmatism on the basis of jurors' responses to an inventory designed to measure this trait. Jury nullification instructions give jurors permissions to disregard a law if they felt that its strict application would result in an unjust verdict. The mock trial involved an euthanasia case. Using content analyses of the jury deliberations, this study found support for the hypothesis. The researchers believe that the relatively strong influence of the judge's instructions on dogmatic juries may reflect the greater credibility/legitimacy that dogmatic individuals are apt to attribute to pronouncements emanating from the judge as a situationally pertinent authority figure. These findings suggest that the defense may be served by the selection of dogmatic jurors in jurisdictions where the triers of fact can be informed of their nullification powers. 2 tables, 4 notes, and 21 references