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Do juror pressures lead to unfair verdicts?

Image of Jury with black shadows of people, representing a full jury.From: APA

By: By Monica K. Miller, PhD, JD, University of Nevada–Reno
Brian H. Bornstein, PhD, University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Three days before Christmas, a New York jury told their judge they were deadlocked after deliberating for more than 11 hours. Judge Barbara Kahn ordered them to continue deliberating and said they would return the next day if they did not reach a verdict. An hour later, the jury found the defendant, John White, guilty of manslaughter. Two jurors reportedly were leaning toward acquittal but changed their minds because of the judge’s orders and hostile fellow jurors.

The defendant’s attorneys are considering an appeal, stating that the judge’s order influenced the verdict by unfairly pressuring jurors who were in the minority (i.e., favoring an acquittal). Psychological research concerning social and time pressure indicate that these concerns may have merit.

Juries under stress

The U.S. Supreme Court has approved instructions ordering a deadlocked jury to continue deliberations, often referred to as a “dynamite charge.” For instance, the judge may tell jurors “a dissenting juror should consider whether his doubt was a reasonable one which made no impression upon many men, equally honest as himself” (Allen v. U.S., 1896; p. 501). The National Center for State Courts reports that hung juries occur in about 6 percent of cases. Hung juries tax the judicial system and prolong the process through retrials. Such instructions are an attempt to avoid this outcome.

A judge’s dynamite charge could make jurors feel coerced into changing their votes. It also leads those in the majority to exert more pressure on jurors in the minority. More broadly, this research suggests that minority jurors are not conforming based on informational influence (i.e., because they are actually persuaded), but because of normative influence (i.e., because of social pressure). Informational influence is an inherent part of the process, whereby some jurors seek to convince others of the rightness of their position. Jurors should not make decisions because of normative pressure from other jurors, which is likely to be exacerbated by a dynamite charge. Nevertheless, the procedure has been upheld (Lowenfield v. Phelps, 1988), and codified in many states (e.g., 17 AZ Rev. Statutes, Rules of Criminal Procedure, 22.4).

Click here for FULL article from APA.

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Why Do We Need Juries?

From: We The People

Most Americans consider jury duty a waste of time. The state forces you to forego personal and professional obligations so that you can fight traffic and struggle to find (most likely paid) parking at the courthouse. Then you hurry up and wait in a bare room with uncomfortable chairs as unknown forces decide whether or not your service is even needed. And if you are unlucky enough to be selected, the whole ordeal could wind up lasting weeks or even months. It’s no wonder people dread receiving their summons.

But there are a number of important reasons we have juries. Remember, the right to trial by jury literally motivated the Revolutionary War. The Declaration of Independence explicitly cites King George’s acts “depriving [the colonists], in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury” as one of the Founders main grievances. Unsurprisingly, then, Article Three Section Two of the Constitution establishes the criminal jury as an institution. And in not one, not two, but three separate amendments making up the Bill of Rights are dedicated to guaranteeing the right to grand, criminal, and civil juries respectively. Indeed, as many have noted, the right to trial by jury at the time of our Founding was probably the most valued of all civil rights.

The Founders so valued juries for their ability to check abuses of government power by judges, legislatures, and presidents. Thomas Jefferson, for instance, privileged “the opinion of twelve honest jurymen” over permanent judges, “who are liable to be tempted by bribery and misled by favor, … relationship, … spirit of party, and devotion to the executive or legislative power.” Furthermore, the Founders celebrated the jury as a mechanism to repeal legislative acts.

Click here for the FULL article from We The People.

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Is the internet destroying juries?

From: Guardian


Juries are a fundamental pillar of our justice system. But many believe that jurors are now routinely accessing and distributing so much prejudicial information online, that the very integrity of the system is in danger.

n 1670, two men named William Penn and William Mead stood trial at the Old Bailey, charged with sedition after leading Quaker prayer services in a London street. The judge, Sir Samuel Starling – also London’s Lord Mayor – was so incensed when the jury returned a not-guilty verdict that he had them all imprisoned.

“You shall be locked up without meat, drink, fire and tobacco,” Starling is reported to have told the obstinate jury. “We will have a verdict, by the help of God, or you shall starve for it.”

Unbeknown to Starling, the legacy of his tactics was to enshrine greater protection for the 12 men and women who decide a criminal trial. The independence of juries is often referred to as a “hallowed principle” of English justice – but this is now being threatened by a very modern phenomenon.

The problem, according to members of the legal profession, is that the internet has entered the jury room. Instances of jurors using search engines such as Google, and social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, is compromising the strict rule that the only information available to them must have been carefully vetted by lawyers so as not to be “prejudicial”, or likely to unfairly influence the verdict.

All juries are segregated during each day’s hearings, entering and leaving court through private entrances, and eating in a dining room designated only for juries sitting in that court. Yet even in the most high-profile cases, jurors usually go home at the end of each day, making their behaviour outside the courtroom hard to monitor.

The attorney general, judges and lawyers representing both prosecution and defence have all voiced their concerns. “Let us be realistic and address the access jurors have to the internet,” Lord Igor Judge, the head of the judiciary in England and Wales, said recently.

Click here for remaining FULL article.

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Why Juries Have a Hard Time Convicting Cops

From: Cincinnati Enquirer

By: Mark Curnutte

Jurors bring their beliefs and life experiences into the courtroom.

Though many jurors try to remain neutral, their deeply held biases can affect the life-and-death decisions they are charged to make, say legal and brain science experts. The issue has come to the forefront in recent years when a white police officer has stood trial for killing an African-American.

In the avalanche of reaction last week to the announcement that former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing would not be tried a third time, his attorney provided the most convincing piece of evidence that implicit bias played a central role in the two mistrials.

Stew Mathews said it appeared both juries were racially divided. The five African-American jurors — two in the first trial and three in the second — all voted to convict Tensing on both murder and voluntary manslaughter, he said. Only one of the nine white jurors in the second trial voted for a murder conviction, and two wanted a manslaughter conviction.

Tensing, who is white, was charged for shooting and killing unarmed black motorist Sam DuBose during a July 2015 traffic stop.

In announcing his decision to drop charges against Tensing, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said his polling of jurors convinced him “that we will never get a conviction. … So many things bled into the jury room related to race.”

One of those things is implicit bias — the attitudes or stereotypes that scientists say affect our understanding, actions and decisions in an unconscious manner.

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The Truth about Large Jury Verdicts

Court room balancesFrom: Find Law

Consider this: A supertanker carrying millions of gallons of crude oil is being steered by an inebriated captain. The massive barge, filled to the brim with crude oil, runs aground. What happened next is history. After the Exxon Valdez dumped eleven million gallons of black goo into Prince William Sound, billions of dollars were expended in a cleanup that lasted over a decade. An entire ecosystem was destroyed. Fisherman whose livelihoods were dependant on that ecosystem were without means to support themselves or their families.

Several years later, a jury finds that the captain’s employer was liable for the acts of its employee after evidence is presented that:

  1. prior to the date of the grounding, the captain was treated for alcohol abuse,
  2. he was then assigned to command a supertanker upon release from treatment,
  3. he relapsed,
  4. the employer was aware of the relapse, and
  5. after treatment, the employee drank regularly in bars, parking lots, airports, hotels, at various ports, and aboard various other tankers. In spite of that knowledge, the employer did not think to evaluate the captain’s known history before returning him to duty.

The jury concluded in that case that the employer’s conduct involved a gross deviation from the level of care an ordinary person would use, having due regard to all the circumstances. A jury slapped the owner of the supertanker with a $5 billion dollar punitive damages award.

How about this scenario? While sitting at a traffic light waiting for the green light, you are slammed from the rear by a drunk driver who never saw you and didn’t even attempt to stop.

Click here for FULL article.

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What is the Juror Bill of Rights?

From: The Atlantic


In trial courts across America, jurors are skipping jury duty. One third of citizens in major California counties like Los Angeles and San Diego fail to serve. In Texas, the two counties surrounding Houston, Harris and Montgomery County, have had no-show rates of 75 percent and 86 percent, respectively. In Philadelphia, 200,000 of 600,000 citizens failed to show up, leading city officials to create a “scofflaw court” for recalcitrant jurors. And in IdahoFlorida, and North Carolina, the “no-show” problem continues to frustrate local courts.

Juror apathy degrades justice. In Youngstown, Ohio, and Natchez, Mississippi, judges had to postpone murder trials because not enough jurors showed up to serve. Meanwhile, citizens who do appear face an additional burden, as they are summoned more frequently than if the duty was equitably shared.

How can courts address this civic apathy? Federal Judge Mark W. Bennett, a 20-year veteran of picking juries has an idea: a juror bill of rights.

In his Arizona State Law Review article, “Reinvigorating and Enhancing Jury Trials Through an Overdue Juror Bill of Rights:  WWJW—What Would Jurors Want?—A Federal Trial Judge’s View”, Judge Bennett proposes a jury-centric approach that spans everything from cup-holders for jurors’ drinks, stretch breaks, and fresh baked cookies, to substantive legal changes like clear jury instructions, interim summaries of arguments, and the elimination of most of the lawyerly gamesmanship that interferes with the timely administration of trials.

Click HERE for FULL article by Andrew Guthie Ferguson

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The Dos and Don’ts of Jury Duty: A Quick Guide for Employers and Employees

From: Gusto

As you’re flipping through the mail, something official-looking catches your eye: a letter from the court. Your heart immediately sinks—it’s a jury summons.

Getting called in for jury duty is going to twist your life upside down, take you places you never wanted to go, and make work utterly impossible—or so you think.

If you’re a law-abiding citizen over the age of 18, you may have heard rumblings about the pains of jury duty: it’s a time suck, archaic, and could play out like an endless Law & Order rerun.

But when you think about it, being on a jury and working towards justice is one of the engines that drives our democracy. And performing your civic duty should never make you feel uneasy, especially when it comes to your job.

So if you’re an employee or employer stressed about that jury duty summons, have no fear. With some thoughtful education, planning, and communication, jury duty can be an easier, more enjoyable process for all.

How to navigate jury duty as an employer.


1. Brush up on your state’s jury duty leave laws and regulations.

The amount of paid time off you’re required to give your employees varies by state. Pay attention to what your state requires to avoid being faced with pesky penalties.

2. Be proactive about communicating that your employees’ jobs are safe. 

If your employee gets called in, it may very well put a strain on your business. Sure, you can commiserate with them, but be explicit about the fact that they’re protected while doing their civic duty.

Click here for FULL article by Gusto.

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FAQs Regarding Jury Duty: Will I Get Paid?

From: US Courts

How are jurors contacted for service in federal court?

Before potential jurors are summoned for service, their names are randomly drawn from voters lists (and sometimes drivers lists) to receive a questionnaire to determine whether they meet the legal qualifications for jury service. Individuals who receive questionnaires are required to complete and return them to the clerk’s office, which then screens the completed questionnaires to determine eligibility for jury service. (In some courts, qualification questionnaires and summonses are mailed together.)

Must I respond to my jury duty notice?

Yes, it is legally required, and there are penalties for noncompliance. Jurors perform a vital role in the American system of justice. Jury service is an important civic function that supports one of the fundamental rights of citizens – the right to have their cases decided by a jury of their peers.

Who may serve as a juror?

The Jury Act, which is set out at Title 28, U.S. Code, Sections 1861-1878, calls for random selection of citizens’ names from voters lists or from voter lists supplemented by additional sources (such as drivers lists). Because random selection is required, individuals may not volunteer for service. More on Jury Service

The Act states that individuals are legally disqualified from service:

  • if they are not a citizen of the United States 18 years old, who has resided for a period of one year within the judicial district;
  • if they are unable to read, write, and understand the English language with a degree of proficiency necessary to fill out a qualification form;
  • if they are unable to speak the English language;
  • if they are incapable by reason of mental or physical infirmity to render jury service; or
  • if they have felony charges pending against them punishable by imprisonment for more than one year, or they have been convicted of a felony and their civil rights have not been restored.

In addition, the Jury Act lists three groups that are exempt from federal jury service:

  • members of the armed forces on active duty;
  • members of professional fire and police departments; and
  • “public officers” of federal, state or local governments, who are actively engaged in the performance of public duties.

Persons belonging to these groups may not serve on federal juries, even if they so desire.

Will I be paid for jury service?

Yes, federal jurors are paid $40 a day. (Employees of the federal government are paid their regular salary in lieu of this fee.) In most courts, jurors also are reimbursed for reasonable transportation expenses and parking fees.

Your employer may continue your salary during all or part of your jury service, but federal law does not require an employer to do so. Nonetheless, the Jury Act forbids any employer from firing, intimidating, or coercing any permanent employee because of their federal jury service.

What if the dates of my jury service conflict with my work or vacation schedule?

Click here for FULL article. 

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The Mid-Atlantic Association for Court Management is committed to the fair and effective administration of justice through improved management of our courts. Serving as a regional forum for a broad diversity of court professionals, MAACM responds to the changing management development needs of its membership by ensuring the accessible and affordable delivery of quality-driven continuing education that encourages information sharing and promotes collegial networking.

The 25th Annual MAACM conference is scheduled for September 30th – October 2nd, 2018 in Seven Springs, PA.

Juror Calling is proud to be an exhibitor.

Please stop by our booth to learn more about how we can help with your Juror Attendance.

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Image of Jury with black shadows of people, representing a full jury.

If You’re Called For Jury Service: Show Up, of Course

Image of Jury with black shadows of people, representing a full jury.From: Skeptic Files

IF YOU’RE CALLED FOR JURY SERVICE: Show up, of course, with your conscience as your guide. The court will usually ask the assembled jury pool, from which a jury or juries will be drawn, if anyone knows either the defendant or the plaintiff, and whether anyone has any reason why he or she would be unable to render a fair verdict. These are appropriate concerns, and most people, ourselves included, have no problem with questions of this sort. We urge you to answer honestly, out of respect for the defendant’s right to a fair and impartial jury. But what about questions which you feel invade your privacy, or simply embarrass you? Should you refuse to answer? Or should you spill your guts at every question? Should you tell the judge and lawyers only what they want to hear? Or what you want them to hear? Or…? And what about the oath you’ll be asked to take–to “follow the law as given by the court, even if you disagree with it?” Should you cross your fingers while swearing to abide…? No one can supply answers for anyone else to moral questions like these, so we won’t try. Nor does FIJA offer legal advice, because we’re not lawyers. But–it should be abundantly clear–we believe fully informed decisions are better than choices made in ignorance, so we are happy to supply some considerations which may be of value to you when you receive notice to show up for jury duty, along with some tips to help you understand your role as a juror: (1) Your Fourth Amendment right to privacy and your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent apply–even during the jury selection process, or “voir dire”, where rough questions are often asked. (For example: “Have you ever been raped, madam?”)

Refusal to answer may cost you an opportunity to serve, so you have a moral choice to make if you believe that justice in this case could depend upon you being empaneled, or you feel that you have a duty or responsibility to the community to serve on this jury which outweighs having to make some difficult choices, including choices which may embarrass or inconvenience you, or which will entail invasion of your privacy. (2) The judge is granted no authority by the Constitution or by any Supreme Court ruling, by common law or by any traditional American legal doctrine, to require the jury to take an oath to follow the law as he explains it or, for that matter, to “instruct” the jury to do anything.

Click here for the FULL article by Skeptic Files.