On Juror Decision Making: An Empathic Inquiry
Posted: 23 Oct 2019
Date Written: October 2019
This review examines the workings of jurors deciding criminal cases. It seeks not to commend or condemn jury decision making but rather to offer an empathic exploration of the task that jurors face in exercising their fact-finding duty. Reconstructing criminal events in the courtroom amounts to a difficult feat under the best of circumstances. The task becomes especially complicated under the taxing conditions of criminal adjudication: the often substandard evidence presented in court; the paucity of the investigative record; types of evidence that are difficult to decipher; the unruly decision-making environment of the courtroom; and mental gymnastics required to meet the normative demands of criminal adjudication. The critical spotlight is directed not at the jurors but at the conditions under which we expect them to fulfill their duty and at the unverified reverence in which their verdicts are held. The article concludes with a set of recommendations designed to assist our fact-finders in meeting the societal expectations of this solemn task.
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