Although the jury is often referred to as one of the bulwarks of the American justice system, it regularly comes under attack. Recent changes to trial procedures, such as reducing jury size, allowing non-unanimous verdicts, and rewriting jury instructions in plain English, were designed to promote greater efficiency and adherence to the law. Other changes, such as capping damages and replacing jurors with judges as arbiters in complex trials, seem designed to restrict the role of laypeople in trial outcomes. Whether these innovations are implemented to facilitate the administration of justice or due to the belief that juries have excessive power and make irrational decisions, they raise a host of questions about their effects on juries' judgments and about justice. Policymakers sometimes make incorrect assumptions about jury behavior, with the result that some reform efforts have had surprising and unintended consequences.
The Jury Under Fire reviews a number of controversial
beliefs about juries as well as the implications of these views for
jury reform. It reviews up-to-date research on both criminal and
civil juries that uses a variety of research methodologies:
simulations, archival analyses, field studies, and juror
interviews. Each chapter focuses on a mistaken assumption or myth
about jurors or juries, critiques these myths, and then uses social
science research findings to suggest appropriate reforms. Chapters
discuss the experience of serving as a juror; jury selection and
jury size; and the impact of evidence from eyewitnesses, experts,
confessions, and juvenile offenders. The book also covers the
process of deciding damages and punishment and the role of emotions
in jurors' decision making, and it compares jurors' and judges'
decisions. Finally, it reviews a broad range of efforts to reform
the jury, including the most promising reforms that have a solid
backing in research. Featuring highly visible trials to illustrate
key points, The Jury Under Fire will interest researchers
in psychology and the law, practicing attorneys, and policymakers,
as well as students and trainees in these areas.