The Jury as Critic: An Empirical Look at How Capital Juries Perceive Expert and Lay Testimony

Posted: 17 Oct 1997  

Scott E. Sundby

University of Miami School of Law

Abstract

Drawing upon interviews with over 150 jurors who served on 36 capital cases (approximately half of the jurors served on cases where a death sentence was imposed and the other half on cases which resulted in a life sentence), this Article examines jurors' reactions to different types of witnesses: professional experts, lay experts and family members. The Article explores the reasons why jurors generally are highly skeptical of professional experts, especially defense experts, as compared to lay witnesses. The Article also examines, however, how jury receptiveness to expert testimony can be enhanced through effective integration of the expert's testimony into the testimony of lay witnesses. The Article uses several case studies to illustrate its points and draws upon the storytelling model of jury deliberations to help explain its findings. The Article concludes by considering the implications of its findings for capital litigation and claims of ineffective assistance of counsel.

JEL Classification: K14, K49

Suggested Citation

Sundby, Scott E., The Jury as Critic: An Empirical Look at How Capital Juries Perceive Expert and Lay Testimony. Virginia Law Review, Vol. 83, No. 6, 1997. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=11411

Scott E. Sundby (Contact Author)

University of Miami School of Law ( email )

1311 Miller Dr.
Coral Gables, FL 33146
United States
305-284-5848 (Phone)

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