Factors Affecting A Jurys Verdict In A Trial Criminology Essay

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Juries were introduced into England and Wales in the 11th century and since then the ways of the jury have improved dramatically for example, in the 11th century women were not allowed to sit on the jury and jurors would have been fined or imprisoned if the verdict in which they had given did not correspond to that of the judges; these types of policies only stayed until the 1970s but now different policies have replaced the previous ones. Currently only particular individuals are eligible for jury duty, this criteria is as follows: individuals aged between 18 and 70 years old, individuals must be registered onto an electoral roll and have lived within the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for a minimum of 5 uninterrupted years since the age of 15; unfortunately there is also a criteria for individuals who would not be accepted for jury duty, these are: individuals presently on bail, individuals who have ever been given a prison term, individuals who suffer from any mental illness, individuals with the profession of a judge or a priest or finally individuals who anybody involved within the particular trial. This essay will focus on the factors which affect the juries' decision on a particular verdict towards the defendant. Within the essay things to be discussed are the factors which affect jury decision making, the strengths and weaknesses of a jury and finally the alternatives that could be used in place of a jury.

There are many different factors that can affect jury decision making but the first to be discussed will be the characteristics of the juror, the defendant and the victim. The jury are chosen to have similar characteristics as the victim (Mauet, 1993) but the prosecution and defence (both on different types of case, prosecution and criminal) prefer the juror's to be middle aged or retired with an average income within a secure marriages. Within juror characteristics there are many different features; firstly gender, Nagel and Weitzman (1972) stated that they found male dominated juries awarded higher damages to plaintiffs of the same sex while female majority juries awarded generously proportioned sums to plaintiffs of the same sex. Also female juror's are more likely to find male defendants charged with rape or child abuse guilty (Acre et al, 1996; Crowley et al, 1994) but defendant's of the same sex for the exact same charge are charged at a much lower proportion (Fischer, 1997). Secondly age; it has been found that younger juror's are more likely to find the defendant not guilty no matter what the charge (Hans and Vidmar, 1982). Thirdly education level; previous research shows that juror's with a high education level are more likely to find the defendant guilty (Hans and Vidmar, 1982). Fourthly race; McGowan and King (1982) stated that juror's gave longer sentences to defendant's who were of a comparable race. Chadee (1996) found that white majority juries were more likely to vote to find a black defendant guilty and were more brutal in the chosen judgment but Bonazzoli (1998) and King (1993) found that black majority juries seemed to give a black defendant a much more brutal sentence when the evidence powerfully pointed to the defendant's guiltiness which is what Baldwin et al (1979) had previously stated. Fifthly authoritarianism; high-authoritarian juror's tend to be predictable, severe, power orientated, traditional and respectful towards authority (Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswick, Levison and Sanford, 1982). Adorno (1982) found a correlation with sentence severity but not finding the defendant guilty proneness. Culter and Moran (1993) found that juror verdict depended on the form of authoritarianism either traditional or legal, both forms were found reliable but legal authoritarianism was found to be better than traditional authoritarianism. Finally dogmatism; dogmatism is similar to authoritarianism by emphasizing closed minded, stiff thinking but without the right-wing political association. Juries with a majority percentage of dogmatic juror's are more likely to find the defendant guilty (McGowan and King, 1982; Shaffer and Case, 1982). Dogmatic juries also propose that the defendant's sentence is made five times longer. Kerwin and Shaffer (1991) found that dogmatic juror's are more receptive than non-dogmatic juror's.

The features of the defendant's characteristics are not as lengthy as the features of the juror's characteristics but are just as significant. Firstly previous criminal records; Sealy and Cornish (1973) found that juror's on a case with a defendant who holds a previous criminal record were more likely to be found guilty than those without a previous criminal record, when juror's were informed of the previous records the conviction rate increased by 40% (Hans and Doob, 1976). But Tanford and Cox (1988) found that when the previous conviction was not related to the current charge the conviction rate stayed the same unless the previous conviction was related to the current charge. Finally attractiveness; Izzett and Leginski (1974) tested the factor of attractiveness on a mock jury, they were presented with a photo of a physically attractive defendant and also a photo of a physically unattractive defendant and found that the physically attractive defendant was given a much more lenient sentence than the physically unattractive defendant. MacCoun (1990) found the same as Izzett and Leginski but also found that physically attractive defendant's faced a much more brutal sentence when they had used their attractiveness to execute a deceptive crime.

Again the features of the victim characteristics are not as lengthy as the features of the juror's characteristic but again are just as significant. Firstly age; there seems to be no relationship between the victims age and the juries verdict (Duggan et al, 1989; Goodman et al, 1998; J.E.B. Myers et al, 1999) but Gabora et al (1993) found a weak connection between the victims age and the juries verdict as there were to some extent more guilty verdicts when the victims were aged 12 - 13 years of age opposed to victims aged 16 - 17 years of age. M.A. Myers (1979) also found that guilty charges were more likely to be given when the victims were younger but the verdicts made by the jury were not related to any other characteristic of the victim for example, gender or employment status. Finally race; Daudistel et al (1999) found that longer sentences were given to the defendant when they were from the same racial group as their victim for example, White and Hispanic. Baldus et al (1998) found that black defendants are unreasonably sentenced to death by United States juries for example, black defendant's who murder white victims are more likely to be sentenced to death than white defendant's who murder black victims or black defendant's who murder black victims.

There are other factors which may affect jury decision making which will be discussed now. Firstly the definitions of key legal terms; the wording which is used to express the criterion of evidence has a considerable impact on the juries decision. Kerr et al (1976) examined three different definitions of 'reasonable doubt' was described as any 'conceivable doubt' as opposed to doubts that could be spoken and sustained. Horowitz and Kirkpatrick (1996) did as Kerr et all did but instead of three definitions they used five and they found that when reasonable doubt was described as firmly convinced showed an alliance with a bigger discussion of the evidence presented, the instructions and fewer guilty charges when prosecutions case is a weak case but these alliances fade away when the prosecutions case is a strong case. Simon (1967) stated that verdicts were affected a lot by the explanation of insanity equalling in more acquittals by reasons of insanity. Secondly jury nullification; jury nullification is the impact of reminding the jury that they are able to "nullify" a law or discount evidence, by reminding the juror's that they can do so makes them more likely to use it. In 1985, Horowitz gave juries three types of nullification reminder; a strong detailed reminder, a weak brief reminder and no reminder at all. The jury who received the strong detailed reminder from Horowitz spent very little time looking over the evidence and spent much more time discussing the defendant's personal experiences plus, fewer guilty verdicts were given on euthanasia cases but more on vehicle homicides which occurred when the defendant was drunk. Horowitz (1988) also found that juries who have detailed nullification reminders produced more acquittals with cases of "victimless crime" for example; illegal weapons possession but more guilty charges for crimes which may have injured an innocent individual for example, drink driving. Kerwin and Shaffer (1991) found that the impact a nullification reminder has on the decision making depends on the personality of the juror's for example, dogmatic juries produce more guilty verdicts than non-dogmatic juries when reminded that it is possible to "nullify" evidence. Most studies show the same results but the impact of a nullification reminder on the decision making process may be based on several factors for example, the content of the case (Horowitz, 1985), the nature of the crime committed (Horowitz, 1985, 1988), etc. Thirdly trial structure; trial structure is basically the courtroom procedure which is mainly concerned with the timing and presentations made by each party. Two issues which arise is bifurcation and joinder/severance; bifurcation is when the trial is separated between the parties while presenting the evidence for or against the defendant.