Stupid Juror Questions?
Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law
September 30, 2013
Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 13-32
Everyone knows there is no such thing as a stupid question. Well, at least every parent, teacher, counselor, advisor, librarian and boss is evidently aware of the truth of that simple maxim. Nonetheless, the obvious utility of asking questions – seeking wisdom; requesting clarification; locating information – appears to have eluded certain high officials in the justice system of the United Kingdom, not to mention a raft of journalists, a clutch of parliamentarians, and a good swath of the British public, all of whom expressed consternation at a series of written questions posed by the jurors in a high profile, though relatively low stakes, criminal case. “Do we need IQ tests for juries?” wondered one pundit, who fumed that the jury’s questions had “exposed a breathtaking level of ignorance and stupidity.” Another echoed the thought, asking whether the jury was “stupid or just confused?” This article analyzes the ten infamous questions posed by the jury in the British trial of Vicki Pryce, who was accused of “perverting the course of justice” in an attempt to advance the political career of her now-former husband. Drawing upon legal history, criminal procedure, and cognition science, we conclude that the jury’s questions were far more perceptive than the court and the British pundits realized.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 22
Keywords: juror, juries, jury questions, cognition science, criminal procedure, jury instructions
JEL Classification: K14, K41
Date posted: October 5, 2013