Juror decision making: The importance of evidence.

Visher, C. (1987). Juror decision making: The importance of evidence. Law and Human Behavior, 11, 1-17.

Much of the research on juror decision making is concerned with whether jurors are swayed by irrelevant-or extralegal-issues in their judgments of defendants. Such studies examine whether jurors’ attitudes and victims’ and defendants’ characteristics have a measurable impact on these decisions. Yet, in the typical study, evidential issues are either poorly measured or ignored, hence the effects of extralegal issues may be exaggerated. Moreover, jury simulations are often chosen to study these questions despite critics’ concerns about the generalizability of the results. The present study uses data gathered from actual jurors to assess whether the emphasis on juror competence is justified. The results indicate that these jurors’ decisions are dominated by evidential issues, particularly evidence concerning the use of force and physical evidence. Jurors were considerably less responsive to characteristics of victims and defendants, although some of these factors significantly affected their decisions.

In a hierarchical regression, evidence and case characteristics accounted for 34% of the variance in jurors’ reports of their predeliberation verdict preferences, whereas victim and defendant characteristics accounted for another 8% and juror characteristics and attitudes another 2%. Best individual predictor was juror’s assessment of victim’s behavior.