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The Jury Crisis (eBook)

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  • 69,782 Words
  • 192 Pages

Juries have a bad reputation. Often jurors are seen as incompetent, biased and unpredictable, and jury trials are seen as a waste of time and money. In fact, so few criminal and civil cases reach a jury today that trial by jury is on the verge of extinction. Juries are being replaced by mediators, arbitrators and private judges. The wise trial of “Twelve Angry Men” has become a fiction. As a result, a foundation of American democracy is about to vanish.

The Jury Crisis: What’s Wrong with Jury Trials and How We Can Save Them addresses the near collapse of the jury trial in America – its causes, consequences, and cures. Drury Sherrod brings his unique perspective as a social psychologist who became a jury consultant to the reader, applying psychological research to real world trials and explaining why juries have become dysfunctional.

While this collapse of the jury can be traced to multiple causes, including poor public education, the absence of peers and community standards in a class-stratified, racially divided society, and people’s reluctance to serve on a jury, the focus of this book is on the conduct of trials themselves, from jury selection to evidence presentation to jury deliberations. Judges and lawyers believe – wrongly – that jurors can put aside their biases, sit quietly through hours, days or weeks of conflicting testimony, and not make up their minds until they have heard all the evidence. Unfortunately, the human brain doesn’t work that way. A great deal of psychological research on jurors and other decision-makers shows that our brains intuitively leap to story-telling before we rationally analyze “facts,” or evidence. Weaving details into a narrative is how we make sense of the world, and it’s very hard to suppress this tendency. Consequently, a majority of jurors actually make up their minds before they have heard much of the evidence. Judges, arbitrators and mediators have similar biases.

The Jury Crisis deals with an important social problem, namely the near collapse of a thousand year old institution, and proposes how to fix the jury system and restore trial by jury to a more prominent place in American society.

Juries have a bad reputation. Often jurors are seen as incompetent, biased and unpredictable, and jury trials are seen as a waste of time and money. In fact, so few criminal and civil cases reach a jury today that trial by jury is on the verge of extinction. Juries are being replaced by mediators, arbitrators and private judges. The wise trial of “Twelve Angry Men” has become a fiction. As a result, a foundation of American democracy is about to vanish.

The Jury Crisis: What’s Wrong with Jury Trials and How We Can Save Them addresses the near collapse of the jury trial in America – its causes, consequences, and cures. Drury Sherrod brings his unique perspective as a social psychologist who became a jury consultant to the reader, applying psychological research to real world trials and explaining why juries have become dysfunctional.

While this collapse of the jury can be traced to multiple causes, including poor public education, the absence of peers and community standards in a class-stratified, racially divided society, and people’s reluctance to serve on a jury, the focus of this book is on the conduct of trials themselves, from jury selection to evidence presentation to jury deliberations. Judges and lawyers believe – wrongly – that jurors can put aside their biases, sit quietly through hours, days or weeks of conflicting testimony, and not make up their minds until they have heard all the evidence. Unfortunately, the human brain doesn’t work that way. A great deal of psychological research on jurors and other decision-makers shows that our brains intuitively leap to story-telling before we rationally analyze “facts,” or evidence. Weaving details into a narrative is how we make sense of the world, and it’s very hard to suppress this tendency. Consequently, a majority of jurors actually make up their minds before they have heard much of the evidence. Judges, arbitrators and mediators have similar biases.

The Jury Crisis deals with an important social problem, namely the near collapse of a thousand year old institution, and proposes how to fix the jury system and restore trial by jury to a more prominent place in American society.


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by drury r. sherrod

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