The Emotional Juror

33 Pages Posted: 5 Dec 2007

See all articles by Todd E. Pettys

Todd E. Pettys

University of Iowa - College of Law


This contribution to the Fordham Law Review's symposium on ethics and evidence relies upon developments in other disciplines to lay the groundwork for a more finely tuned understanding of emotions' place in the courtroom. The ethical uncertainties surrounding lawyers' use of emotional appeals, and the increasing disparity between the ways in which the legal community and scholars in related displines talk about the role of emotions in rational decision making, are in large part the product of the legal community's simplistic understanding of emotions themselves. In the evidentiary setting in particular, the legal community needs to move beyond the notion that all emotional influences automatically fall on the "unfair prejudice" side of the balance that Rule 403 prescribes for testing the relative weight of evidence's probative value and potential for unfair prejudice. Some emotional influences are indeed undesirable, but others are vitally important. Legal professionals need to understand the ways in which emotions aid rational decision making, while also better understanding the ways in which emotions can undesirably skew jurors' judgments. By coming to a clearer understanding of the roles that emotions play in jurors' decisions, we will be better able to debate the propriety of appeals to emotions in particular instances.

Keywords: emotion, juror, rational, decision making, ethics

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K41

Suggested Citation

Pettys, Todd E., The Emotional Juror. Fordham Law Review, Vol. 76, 2007, U Iowa Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-01, Available at SSRN:

Todd E. Pettys (Contact Author)

University of Iowa - College of Law ( email )

Melrose and Byington
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States
319-335-6814 (Phone)
319-335-9098 (Fax)

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