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Should We Rush To Reform the Criminal Jury?: Consider Conviction Rate Data

NCJ Number
Judicature Volume: 80 Issue: 6 Dated: (May-June 1997) Pages: 286-290
N Vidmar; S S Beale; M Rose; L F Donnelly
Date Published
5 pages
This article examines dissatisfaction with criminal juries and the public misperception that jury acquittal rates are high.
The article reports changes in conviction/acquittal rates over time in the Federal courts and in the State courts of North Carolina, Florida, California, New York, and Texas. Statistics show no support for critics' explicit or implicit assertions that juries are becoming too easily swayed by emotional appeals, soft hearts or racial politics and consequently tend to acquit defendants at higher rates than in the past. If anything, the trend appears to be in the opposite direction. The verdict in the trial of O.J. Simpson, which appears to have almost single-handedly spurred nationwide calls for reform of the criminal jury system, was not typical of the overwhelming majority of criminal jury trials. The jury has survived for centuries by adapting to changing times; recent developments in forensic evidence, mass media coverage and jury composition may require further adaptations. However, major reforms should not be taken lightly and should not be based on false pictures of reality. The present study places the burden squarely on critics of the criminal jury system to produce valid and reliable data to support their claims. Notes, figures


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