Law and Social Psychology

Topics: Jury, Jury selection, Judge Pages: 7 (2231 words) Published: November 10, 2006
This paper discusses law and how it applies to Social Psychology. It will discuss the three stages during a jury trial: the jury selection, the courtroom drama, and the jury deliberation. The next application we are going to look at is the post trial, where sentencing and prison come into play. The last application we are going to look at is justice inside and outside of the courtroom.

Everyone accused of a crime in the United States has the right to a trial by an impartial jury. Jury selection involves a three stage process. The first stage is to use voter registration lists, telephone directories, and other sources to accumulate a master list of eligible citizens that live in the community. The second stage is to call a certain amount of people randomly to duty. The last stage is known as voir dire, individuals on jury duty go through a pretrial interview. There are a number of reasons a juror can be let go, including knowing the person on trial or if the individual knows about the case or has formed opinions about the case. The process of letting some jurors go while other stay implies the lawyers know a little bit about psychology.

Many trial lawyers rely on implicit personality theories and stereotypes. There are many stereotypes available; some lawyers believe they can predict a verdict just by the race, gender, or ethnicity of the jury. It has been proven that some races tend to favor a defendant of their same race when weak evidence has been supplied; they also are much harder on the defendant when strong evidence is supplied. There is no specific stereotype that has been proven to work in a jury; therefore scientific jury selection was created.

Scientific jury selection involves surveying the residents in the region to find correlations between demographics and trial relevant attitudes. The researchers are not allowed to talk with the prospective jurors legally. There are questions as to whether or not scientific jury selection is ethical. Those who practice scientific jury selection say yes, it is just a refined version of what lawyers do by intuition. Critics say it tips the justice scales in favor of the wealthy who can afford the assistance.

The last topic dealing with jury selection is death qualification. Due to the fact that states that allow capital punishment also allow the jurors to sentence the victim this is a very crucial element in jury selection. In these cases a practice known as death qualification is used. In death qualification judges can exclude all prospective jurors that oppose the death penalty for the entire trial. This does cause some dilemma. In a study done it was shown that people who support the death penalty are more prosecution-minded on a number of issues. This can come into play during the trial because these jurors are more likely to vote the defendant guilty. This is an ethical question surrounding the court today, though the courts have, as of today, rejected these research claims.

The courtroom drama is the next topic in the jury trial. Now that the jury has been selected the trial officially begins. Confessions, lie detector tests, eyewitness testimony, nonevidentiary influences, and the judge's instructions are all part of this process. Confessions usually occur in police interrogation rooms. Suspects are aware of their Miranda rights, but the police use other psychological factors to persuade the suspect to confess. The first thing they do is put the suspect in a small, bare, soundproof room. They then follow a nine step process designed to get suspects to confess that are outlined in Fred Inbau and others in Criminal Interrogation and Confessions. The problem with these persuasive tactics is that they lead to false confessions 20 to 25 percent of the time. This lead to the question of why would people confess to a crime they have not committed. Some suspects commit to a crime to get out of a bad situation; some believe they have committed a crime after being...
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