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In Search of Resonable Doubt - A Systematic Examination of Selected Qualification Approaches

NCJ Number
Law and Human Behavior Volume: 9 Issue: 2 Dated: (June 1985) Pages: 141-158
F C Dane
Date Published
18 pages
This study examined the empirical validity of selected approaches for quantifying jurors' concepts of reasonable doubt by using estimates derived from each approach to recreate the decisions of students who read a criminal trial transcript and comparing the recreated decisions to the actual trial decisions.
The four approaches assessed were Simon's rank-order technique (1970), a self-report approach, a statistical decision theory (Fried, Kaplan, and Klein 1975), and one derived from Justice White's explanation of the Johnson v. Louisiana (1972) decision. Both the rank-order and the Supreme Court approaches assume that the value for reasonable doubt is the same for all individuals exposed to the same information while the other two approaches do not include this assumption. Participants in the study were 168 student volunteers from introductory psychology courses at a large midwestern university who were divided into 42 separate 'juries' of 4 persons each. The results of the analysis indicated that every approach accurately matched the actual decisions at a better-than-chance rate, although the rank-order and statistical decision theory approaches were most accurate. The study also used the reasonable doubt estimates obtained from each of the approaches to examine the basic assumption underlying the Thomas and Hogue (1976) juror decision model. Only the estimates from the statistical decision theory approach provided consistent support for this model. The paper discusses the advantages and problems associated with each approach and suggests directions for future research. Tables and approximately 30 references are supplied. (Author abstract modified)


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