Jury Deliberation

Jury Deliberation Anyone who has seen the original 1957 movie Twelve Angry Men can appre- ciate how passionate a jury’s deliberation can be. This film classic opens with a jury eager to convict a young man of murder—no ifs, ands, or buts. The group selects a foreperson and takes a show-of-hands vote. The result is an 11-to-1 majority, with actor Henry Fonda the lone dissenter. After many tense moments, Fonda manages to convert his peers, and the jury votes unanimously for acquittal.

It is often said that the unique power of the jury stems from the wisdom that emerges when individuals come together privately as one group. Is this assump- tion justified? Twelve Angry Men is a work of fiction, but does it realistically por- tray what transpires in the jury room? And in what ways does the legal system influence the group dynamics? By interviewing jurors after trials and by recruit- ing people to participate on mock juries and then recording their deliberations, researchers have learned a great deal about how juries make their decisions.

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Leadership in the Jury room In theory, all jurors are created equal. In prac- tice, however, dominance hierarchies tend to develop. As in other decision-making groups, a handful of individuals lead the discussion, while others join in at a lower rate or watch from the sidelines, speaking only to cast their votes. It’s almost as if there is a jury within the jury. The question is, what kinds of people emerge as leaders?

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