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Jury Size - Impact on Verdict's Correctness

NCJ Number
AMERICAN POLITICS QUARTERLY Volume: 7 Issue: 4 Dated: (October 1979) Pages: 438-452
R T Roper
Date Published
15 pages
A research study to evaluate the impact of reduction in jury size from 12 to below 12 members on the correctness of jury verdicts is presented; 110 juries were included in the study.
As defined by the United States Supreme Court, trial by an impartial jury of one's peers is a procedural due process right; however, the Court has frequently been called on to establish the operational parameters, as in the cases of 'Williams v. Florida' (1970), 'Colgrove v. Battin' (1973), and 'Ballew v. Georgia.' In this study approximately 900 subjects participated in simulated jury decisionmaking. They were assigned to juries consisting of 4 or 5 members, 6 members, 9 members, 10 or 11 members, or 12 members. Videotaped trial presentations were employed, and participants were informed that results of the study would be forwarded to the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts for use in implementing a judicial reform amendment to the State constitution. Deliberations were taped to ensure responsible participant behavior. In addition, the subjects were told that their verdicts would be compared with the 'real jury's' verdict. Moreover, an initial vote was taken at the outset of all deliberations. The research focused specifically on the accuracy of evidence recall; i.e., under what structure jurors had the most accurate evidence recall. The study was premised on the assumption that the more accurate the recall of evidence, the more accurate the verdict. Thus, policymakers should implement that structure which produces the most accurate evidence recall. Data analysis of extensive postdeliberation questionnaire information revealed that there was no difference in the ability of different sized juries to recall evidence accurately. It may be concluded that even six-member juries provide enough resources to discuss issues meaningfully, and that once that limit is reached additional jurors make no substantial contribution. Twenty-four references are included in the article. (Author abstract modified)


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