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Testing the Story Model of Juror Decisionmaking

NCJ Number
Sex Offender Law Report Volume: 4 Issue: 4 Dated: June/July 2003 Pages: 53,54,57,58
Douglas D. Koski J.D.
Date Published
June 2003
4 pages
This document details a study on jury decisionmaking in rape trials.
A series of nine jury simulations was conducted in which one dimension of victim legitimacy (prior relationship) was systematically varied. A sample of 108 students was given summary versions of the alleged crime. The manipulation of victim legitimacy involved not what happened but was limited to the nature of the relationship between the victim and the defendant. The cases were identical except for the following variations in the parties’ relationship. Under the first condition, the parties were married but separated. Under the second condition, parties were dating. Under the third condition, the parties were strangers to one another. The hypothesis predicted that individual-level not-guilty votes would be positively related to the victim’s failure to achieve legitimate victim status, as measured by prior relationship. Results show that, even if the majority view predicted verdict perfectly in all cases, deliberation still matters because reaching verdict is only ancillary to the function of deliberation. The decision grounds were consistent with the victim-legitimacy hypothesis, but not entirely explained by it. Jury decisionmaking was clearly not as unlike the decisionmaking processes of the court actors as anticipated. Juries are constrained in their decisionmaking because they are told to decide the case using a standard that is foreign to them. Even when jury decisionmaking is observed, it is not always known if a juror is acting in accordance with reasonable doubt, or simply articulating his or her sentiments in those terms. Jurors are free to select among the evidence, and apply the law in any way they so choose. The most troublesome construction was the “reasonable doubt/insufficient evidence” construction because inferences partially based on juror attitudes about the criminal justice system affect construction of stories.