Increasing jurors’ participation in trials: A field experiment with jury note-taking and question asking.

Heuer, L., & Penrod, S. (1988). Increasing jurors’ participation in trials: A field experiment with jury note-taking and question asking. Law and Human Behavior, 12, 231-261.
Heuer, L., & Penrod, S. (1989). Instructing jurors: A field experiment with written and preliminary instructions. Law and Human Behavior, 13, 409-430.

A field experiment is reported that examines the advantages and disadvantages of two juror participation procedures: Allowing jurors to take notes during the trial, and allowing jurors to direct questions to witnesses. The presence or absence of both procedures was randomly assigned to 34 civil and 33 criminal trials in Wisconsin circuit courts. Following the trials, questinnaires were administered to judges, lawyers, and jurors. Overall, no evidence is found to support the hypotheses that juror notetaking would serve as a useful memory aid, would assist the jury with recall of the judge’s instructions, or would increase the jurors’ confidence in their verdict. The hypothesis that juror notetaking would increase juror satisfaction with the trial was supported. None of the findings supported the conclusion that juror notetaking was distracting, that notetakers were overly influential during the deliberations, that the jurors’ notes were inaccurate, that the notes favored the plaintiff, or that the notes heightened juror disagreement about the trial evidence. It was hypothesized, but not found, that allowing juror questions of witnesses would uncover important issues in the trial and would increase the jurors’ satisfaction with the trial procedure. However, juror questions did serve to alleviate juror doubts about the trial testimony, and provided the lawyers with feedback about the jurors’ perception of the trial. No evidence was found to support the expectations that juror questions would slow the trial, would upset the lawyers’ strategy, or that the question-asking procedure would be a nuisance to the courtroom staff. Furthermore, the lawyers did not appear overly reluctant to object to inappropriate questions from jurors, and jurors did not report being embarassed or angry when their questions were objected to. 67% of jurors took notes when allowed (Mdn = 3 pages) and asked about 3 questions on average during the course of a trial. Notetaking increased satisfaction but did not increase recall of instructions. Written instructions reduced juror disputes during deliberation; pre-instruction helped jurors follow legal guidelines and increased satisfaction. No evidence of negative reaction or detrimental impact associated with either procedure.