Rule departures and making law: Juries and their verdicts.

Myers, M. A. (1979). Rule departures and making law: Juries and their verdicts. Law and Society Review, 13, 781-797.

This study addresses the issue of rule departures and law-making activity by juries adjudicating guilt in felony cases. Analysis of data from a sample of jury trials suggests considerable conformity to rules. That is, jury verdicts are influenced by evidence of the defendant’s guilt and credibility as a witness. Rule departures appear to be limited. They reflect a concern not only with the defendant per se, but also with his choice of a victim and with the seriousness of the prosecution charge against him. The findings suggest that, as actually performed, the jury role is neither clerklike nor discretionary. Rather, it conforms more closely to Kadish and Kadish’s (1973) notion of a recourse role, where rule departures occur only under certain circumstances.

Convictions more likely when defendant or accomplice testified, weapon recovered, more witnesses testified, less serious charge, victim younger, defendant unemployed, or defendant had prior conviction. Variable set accounted for 27% of variance in verdicts. Verdicts unrelated to expert testimony, eyewitness identification, or type of counsel.