Asking Jurors to Do the Impossible

44 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2009

See all articles by Peter Tiersma

Peter Tiersma

Loyola Marymount University, Loyola Law School (Deceased)

Date Written: March 2, 2009


The legal system often asks jurors to perform impossible or highly difficult tasks. They may need to travel back in time or predict the future. They may be required to ignore the obvious, forget something they heard in court, and refrain from discussing the case with anyone. They may even be asked to forget things they already know or to function as human lie detectors. The system often expects them to be experts but forbids them from doing any research. And juries may sometimes have to function as judges. Jurors do their best under these difficult circumstances, but there are ways in which the system could make this burden easier to bear.

Keywords: jury, jury instructions

Suggested Citation

Tiersma, Peter M., Asking Jurors to Do the Impossible (March 2, 2009). Loyola-LA Legal Studies Paper No. 2009-12, Available at SSRN: or

Peter M. Tiersma (Contact Author)

Loyola Marymount University, Loyola Law School (Deceased)

United States

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