Describe and Discuss Factors Affecting Decision Making in Juries. (22)

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A jury is a body of citizens sworn to give a true verdict according to the evidence provided in a court of law by both parties. This verdict is given by the foreman who is appointed by other members of the jury. Other duties of the foreman involve asking questions on behalf of the jury and facilitating jury discussions. The verdict given by the foreman can be either guilty or not guilty as there is no such verdict as “innocent” and this is given after the hearing of the evidence. The size of the jury varies. For example, in criminal cases, there are usually 12 jurors. However, in civil case trials, they may only require six jurors. Although in Scotland, there are 15. The majority for a verdict varies. In some cases it must be unambiguous, while in other jurisdictions, it may be majority or supermajority. The majority required for a verdict varies. In some cases it must be unanimous, while in other jurisdictions it may be a majority or supermajority. A jury that is unable to agree on a verdict is referred to as a “hung jury”. A hung jury is a jury that cannot, by the required voting threshold, agree upon a verdict after an extended period of deliberation and is unable to change its votes There are three main factors affecting decision making in the jury. Juror characteristics, defendant characteristics and social influence. Defendant characteristics can have an influence on jury decision making due to stereotypes that can be generated about the defendant. For example, ethnicity, physical attractiveness etc. A study was carried out by Duncan who shoed participants a video of a person pushing another person and asked them to rate the most aggressive push. He showed a video of a black person pushing a black person, black person pushing a white person, a white person pushing a white person and a white person pushing a black person. He found that participants found the black person was more aggressive than a white person. This shows that they all prejudiced black people to push harder than white people. This was also supported by Pfeifer and Ogloff who found that a black person was more likely to be judged as guilty in a rape case especially when the victim was white. Both Pfeifer and Duncan show that the ethnicity of the defendant can influence the decision made by the jury. Physical attractiveness can also influence the decision making as proved by Saladin et al who found that attractive men were considered less likely to have committed a crime than unattractive ones. This was also supported by DeSantis and Kayson who found that attractive defendants were less likely to be given a harsher sentence. This is known as the “halo effect” which is is a cognitive bias in which one's judgments of a person’s character can be influenced by one's overall impression of him or her. It can be found in a range of situations from the courtroom to the classroom and in everyday interactions. One advantage of defendant characteristics is that it is supported by other psychologists. For example, the belief that ethnicity has an effect on jury decision making was supported by other psychologists including Duncan, Pfeifer and Ogloff. This is an advantage as it is more valid. Another advantage of defendant characteristics is that it uses lab environments to conduct its studies. This is an advantage as the conditions are highly controlled therefore leaving less room for extraneous variables. This is an advantage as it can be repeated due to the high levels of control in the environment, therefore adds to the reliability of the study/theory. One disadvantage of defendant characteristics is that it is outdated. The studies carried out where carried out in the 1970’s where people were more prejudice and had “scapegoats” such as black people on whom they placed the blame. This was supported by Marzelle and Feingold who found no overall effect of ethnicity on jury decisions in 1994. This is a disadvantage as it shows there is no prejudice in jury...
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