Jurors’ interpretations and jury decision making.

Holstein, J. A. (1985). Jurors’ interpretations and jury decision making. Law and Human Behavior, 9, 83-99.

In arriving at their verdicts, jurors must determine “what really happened” in the case at hand. Their interpretations then guide their decision making and become influential in the group deliberation process. This article uses conversational data from simulated jury deliberations to describe jurors’ practice of articulating schematic interpretations as accounts for their verdict choices, and as means for persuading other jurors. As jurors contribute additional interpretations during deliberations, the group decision-making task becomes more complex, deliberations last longer, and they are more difficult to resolve. A significant negative relation is established between the number of interpretations articulated and the jury’s likelihood of reaching a unanimous verdict. Articulating multiple interpretations in support of a candidate verdict appears to militate against its unanimous adoption.

Juries attempted to organize case facts into coherent narrative and considered 2-3 “theories” regarding defendant’s behavior on average. Most theories offered early in deliberation; number considered strongly and positively related to deliberation time and odds of hanging. Consideration of 1 theory in particular highly associated with conviction.