Myths, Misunderstandings & Mistakes of Jury Research UCL Jury Project: 2007: Diversity & Fairness in the Jury System Jury summoning system – who is summoned, who serves, are jurors representative, does system discriminate? 2010: Are Juries Fair? Jury decision-making - Do juries discriminate against minorities? Jury conviction rates. Do jurors understand judicial directions? Juror internet use and impact of media coverage of trials. 3 Main Research Methods (1) Case simulation (2) Large-scale data analysis of verdicts (2) Surveys/interviews with jurors Best research uses all 3 – triangulation Case simulation research Study run only with real juries at Crown Courts Large number of juries see an identical case Defendant charged with violent crime (assault) Only difference is race of defendant Large-scale verdict analysis Correlational studies - analysing all jury verdicts in all courts in England & Wales over 2 year period (>½ million charges) Jury conviction rate 67% 63% White Black 63% 64% 65% Asian Other Not Known Defendant ethnic group Juror surveys & interviews Immediate post-verdict jury studies at court: • Juror awareness of media coverage of cases • Juror use of internet during trial • Juror views of deliberation process Conducting Reliable Jury Research Reliable research about jury system in UK has been seriously hampered by a number of • Myths • Misunderstandings • Mistakes Jury Research Myths Myths about what can and cannot be explored with real juries have affected both the jury policy and research agenda Jury Research Misunderstandings Misunderstandings about how to address specific jury questions have led to misguided “jury research” Jury Research Mistakes Mistakes about how to properly use jury research methodologies have produced questionable if not dangerous research findings Myth of Section 8 S8, Contempt of Court Act 1981: it is a criminal offence to: “Obtain, disclose or solicit any particulars of statements made, opinions expressed, arguments advanced or votes cast by members of a jury in the course of their deliberations” Impact of s.8 Myth One empirical study with juries in England & Wales 1981- 2007 What filled the black hole? Research from other jurisdictions Assumed our juries behave in same way Fundamental error • Crucial differences in jury & social systems • Research on race and juries revealed distinct differences between US juries and juries in England and Wales • Research from other jurisdictions can be valuable – but mainly in terms of research design and methodology • Each jurisdiction needs to conduct its own research High profile cases In absence of reliable evidence here, policy agenda for reform of jury trials dominated by two elements. (1) High profile jury trials where something went fundamentally wrong Create demand for reform … but invariably without answering 2 key questions with empirical evidence: 1. How widespread is the problem? 2. What is most effective method of addressing the problem? Professional Anecdote Also setting policy agenda and dominating beliefs about juries • Those who work in the criminal courts can develop strong views about juries • Professionals’ personal experiences can be extremely helpful in background research • But they cannot provide reliable empirical evidence • Their perceptions need to be tested objectively. What is the state of jury research? Hardcore approach to jury research At best misconceivedat worst dangerous Most “jury research” is in fact: • not done with actual jurors • not done with authentic and complete case materials • not conducted at the jury verdict level • not conducted with large enough or representative sample sizes to generate reliable conclusions Common Methodological Errors Actual case analysis • Insufficient sample sizes • esp multi-variable analysis Surveys/Interviews • Unrepresentative samples • Low response rates • Over-reliance on volunteers • On-line surveys The self-selection problem Temptation of case simulation Relatively easy now to do some version of “mock jury” research But not easy to do this research so it produces reliable conclusions about how juries decide cases Common methodological errors in case simulations Participants: Myth of s.8 led to over-reliance on “proxy jurors” • Students ≠ Jurors • Volunteers ≠ Jurors Failure to consider unique jury environment Materials must be: • Authentic • Complete • Capable of precise controlled testing of variables • Capable of large-scale repetition The “acting out” problem Juror decisions ≠ Jury verdicts Most case simulation research looks only at individual juror decisions not jury verdicts Not surprising – jury verdict research is much more time consuming and complicated But it is not a case of 12 individual decisions = jury verdict Dangerous to extrapolate what verdicts will be from individual decisions In real world of criminal trial only verdict counts Sample sizes There is no set sample size for case simulation studies • Sample size will depend on the number of variables being examined and case variations. • But substantial numbers of full juries are necessary Some research has drawn major conclusions based on only 1 jury verdict per variable/variation. • This is highly unreliable and can be dangerously misleading. • Especially important when issues addressed in the research involve important policy issues. Most researchers looking only to discover problems No attempt to test solutions “Merely to explain and understand is to fiddle while Rome burns.” Ronald V. Clarke Responsible jury research Responsibility in carrying out jury research to insure: 1. Findings are not over-estimated 2. Original research design includes plans to test solutions to problems if found Danger of being in the dark about juries These are not just narrow academic points about jury research methodology – real world impact • Significant challenges facing trial by jury in 21st century … including major criminal law reforms based on little more than assumptions about how juries work • In the existing information vacuum about juries, it is easy for any research which purports to be about juries to be seized upon to suit different policy agendas. • It will also almost inevitably attract media attention. Important questions in need of hardcore jury research Evidence: complex, forensic, fraud, remote, virtual • Do juries understand complex evidence? • Do juries really defer to experts? • What is best way of presenting complex evidence to jury to ensure it is understood? • Is there a CSI effect? • How does visual presentation affect jurors? • How do jurors perceive “virtual” evidence? Future of trial by jury? Should be determined by properly conducted research with real jurors that produces reliable evidence. UCL Jury Project current research projects Preventing improper internet use (ESRC) Improving jury deliberations (ESRC) Impact of special measures (Nuffield) Judicial directions on law (Nuffield) Insanity defence & fitness to plead (Law Comm) Questions?