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Juror notetaking and question asking during trials

A national field experiment

Abstract

Juror notetaking and question asking is examined in 160 trials. Results do not support the hypotheses that juror notes aid memory or increase satisfaction with the trial or verdict. Jurors do not overemphasize noted evidence; their notes do not produce a distorted view of the case. Notetakers can keep pace with the trial, and they do not distract other jurors nor have an undue influence over non-notetakers. Juror notetaking does not favor either party and it consumes little time. Results support the hypothesis that jury questioning promotes juror understanding of facts and issues. Questions do not clearly help get to the truth, alert trial counsel to significant issues, or increase trial or verdict satisfaction. Potential disadvantages of questions are not supported: Jurors do not ask inappropriate questions, are not embarrassed or angered by objections, do not become advocates rather than neutrals, and do not overemphasize their own questions and answers. Counsel are not reluctant to object to juror questions. The jury does not draw inappropriate inferences from unanswered questions, and questions do not have detectable prejudicial effects.

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Correspondence to Larry Heuer.

Additional information

This project was conducted under the auspices of the American Judicature Society under a grant from the State Justice Institute (Project No. 88-06-F-C-018). The authors are thankful for the assistance of the following students throughout this project: Jason Eldridge, Sue Mailen, Tiffany Osterhaut, and Jim Petersen. We are especially grateful for the interest and efforts of 103 judges who participated in this study.

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Heuer, L., Penrod, S. Juror notetaking and question asking during trials. Law Hum Behav 18, 121–150 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01499012

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Keywords

  • Social Psychology
  • Unanswered Question
  • Significant Issue
  • Potential Disadvantage
  • Undue Influence