The entrapment defense. Juror comprehension and decision making.

Borgida, E., & Park, R. (1988). The entrapment defense. Juror comprehension and decision making. Law and Human Behavior, 12, 19-31.

Most American jurisdictions follow either a subjective or an objective approach to the entrapment defense. In order to test some of the differences between the two approaches, student jurors viewed a videotaped cocaine trial and were presented with either subjective test or objective test instructions. The admission of prior conviction evidence was also varied. The jurors deliberated, returned a verdict, and then completed a questionnaire that measured their understanding of the instructions and trial facts. Results show that, first, juror comprehension of the principal features of the objective test is very poor. It is suggested that an effort be made to simplify instructions describing the objective test. Should simplification not improve comprehension, it is argued that the judge, not the jury, should decide the entrapment defense when the objective test is used. Second, admission of a prior conviction has a significant impact on verdicts in the subjective test condition, but not in the objective test condition. This finding suggests that the subjective test instructions are effective in encouraging jurors to use prior convictions as evidence of guilt. The content of the objective test instruction may also account for part of the difference in impact. Jurors in the objective test condition were instructed not to take the defendant’s predisposition into account, and a substantial minority of the jurors understood this aspect of the instruction.

Compared 2 definitions of entrapment. More convictions when juries told of defendant’s criminal record, especially with lenient test. Poor comprehension of strict test; somewhat better for lenient test. Recall of case facts good in both instructional conditions.