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Juror Decision Making - The Importance of Evidence

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1987
17 pages
Multiple regression was used to estimate the relative impact of evidence and extralegal factors on jurors' decisions in a sample of sexual assault trials.
Posttrial interviews were conducted with 331 jurors, 70.4 percent of the 456 jurors who served in the 38 forcible sexual assault trials held in a large Midwestern city between July 1978 and September 1980. The interviews elicited information on jurors' backgrounds, reactions to trial participants and proceedings, and attitudes about the criminal justice system and rape. Additional data consisted of written summaries of trial proceedings by two trained observers, who coded defendants' and victims' characteristics, recorded all evidence presented, and summarized witnesses' testimony. An initial equation used seven evidential variables to estimate their explanatory power for jurors' decisionmaking. A second equation added victims' characteristics, defendants' characteristics, and jurors' attributes to determine whether these factors significantly affected jurors' judgments after evidence was taken into account. Jurors' decisions were dominated by evidential issues, particularly evidence pertaining to the use of force and physical evidence. Jurors were considerably less responsive to victims' and defendants' characteristics. 2 tables, 10 footnotes, and 59 references.

Date Published: January 1, 1987