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Jury Decision Making and Recommendations Writing Assignment (Term Paper Sample)


The task was to analyze the decision making of the jury.


Jury Decision Making and Recommendations
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The jury is an integral part of the judiciary system. It consists of citizens who carry out normal routines with no legal training selected to listen to evidence and provide a verdict that all or the majority of the jury can consent to. They provide a societal perspective to the cases that are presented to the courts. Moreover, the extrapolations about probable verdicts affect the decisions that are used to resolve civil lawsuits. Conversely, in the criminal lawsuits, they are used to offer and acknowledge the plea bargains (Maeder & Yamamoto, 2015, p.4). In this paper, the focus will be on determining the effectiveness of jury decision making and proposing recommendations that will be used to improve the decision making process.
In evaluating the decision making process of the jury from a legal or psychological viewpoint, it is difficult to state whether the jury arrived at the right verdict in most cases. In criminal cases the successive evidence like DNA, incriminatory documents or confessions makes it easy for the jury to make accurate verdicts. However, the lack of such information casts doubt in the decisions that are arrived at after deliberations as they are based on the facts that are presented during trial and personal decision making process (Chaudhuri, 2017, p.1807).
Moreover, in civil cases this is more difficult as the issues revolve around the level of degree of the scenario. For example, what was the level of carelessness exhibited by the defendant? What was the level of impact incurred by the plaintiff? Such questions do not focus on the capability of the jury arriving at an accurate verdict. However, they focus on the jury reaching reasonable verdicts that are inclined to the law and evidence presented to them. An example is in the O.J Simpson’s criminal case where he was accused of murdering Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman. The jury’s in this case acquitted Simpson of the charges. This made many observers to question the accuracy of the verdict as many of them had an inclination that their verdict was not optimal. However, when considering the issue of reasonable verdict, it can easily be concluded that the jury was correct. This is based on the fact that there was a lot of discrepancy, police misbehaviour allegations and a high benchmark of evidence presented in the courts (Coleman et al., 2017, p.4).
All jury trials are close cases where the aspect of reasonable verdict takes precedence to accurate verdict. This, therefore, leads to cases being settled, dropped, or end up as plea bargains. Moreover, the decision made by the jury is influenced by their understanding, dependance on the presented evidence, and the assessment to professional decision makers. The jury faces a lot of challenges in understanding the instructions, especially that of judges (O’Donnell & Safer, 2017, p.947). The testing format and subject matter in question when determining their understanding at times reach a level of below 50% This has necessitated the American Bar Association (ABA), to propose that instructions from the judges should be rewritten to facilitate comprehension and sound verdicts. ABA proposal has been implemented in most jurisdictions in the USA (Zeidman, 2017, p. 293). Despite this, the understanding of the instructions often does not mean that accurate judgement or decision will be made.
Additionally, jury decision making is dependent on the legal evidence that has been presented in court. The questions that are more prominent in the analysis of the decision making process are; do the jury implement the legal and ignore the extra-legal evidence presented to them? Does the aspect of discrimination among plaintiffs contrasting in the severity of their injuries, eyewitnesses with poor versus good chances to scrutinise a crime, and capital defendants whose cases involve aggravating versus mitigating situations? The findings of these questions are vital in providing a clearer discernment on the verdict made by the jury.
According to Chaudhuri et al. (2016), the strength of the legal evidence presented by the prosecution team plays a major role in influencing the accuracy of the verdict. Moreover, in cases of a civil nature the verdict by the jury (damage awarded) is inclined towards the level of severity of the injury sustained. On the other hand, in capital cases the juries are tossed with the responsibility of finding an equilibrium between the mitigating ad aggravating factors in the decisions that they make (p. 1808). From a factual perspective, it is justified to stipulate that the evidence that is presented during the trial has a significant influence in the jury verdict. However, in cases where there are a number of plaintiffs the jury often finds it challenging to dispense awards that are consistent with each of the injuries sustained by the plaintiff (O’Donnel & Safer, 2017, p. 950). In such cases the evidence presented during trial is of little use and the jury has to rely on their own understanding.
Lieberman et al. (2015) indicates that during the trial process testimony that is ruled as being inadmissible often influences the decisions made by the jury. The fact that the witnesses were led to admit it in the court has a major inclination to the verdict that is made at the end of the trial (p. 497). Moreover, the previous cognitive schemas of the jury regarding the law at times lead to disagreement with the legal rules pertinent to a specific case (Anwar et al., 2015, p. 41). The findings reveal that individuals often depend on heuristics which have the likelihood of leading to flawed judgements. This makes it challenging for knowledge to be compartmentalized when making decisions either in the judiciary or personal situation.
Nevertheless, the jury critics have stipulated that the judges are more likely to come up with accurate verdicts when compared to the jury with respect to the evidence presented in the courts. Also, they indicate that judges are professionals in the legal domain while the jury are apprentice in the legal field. This means that they are more inclined to make suitable decisions in the court cases. Moreover, a number of judges have found fault in the jury verdicts. In the Apprendi v. New Jersey, quoted by Justice Breyer in his majority opinion in United States v.Booker, indicated that in complex inquiries that have their sentencing in the scheme of modern guideline the juries are incapacitated from making suitable verdict (Presott & Starr, 2006, p.303).
Devine & Kelly (2015), indicated that in sentencing decisions, there is a need for the confession of particular types of evidence that juries are exempted from hearing during the trial stage. This means that the evidence they use to make their decisions is limited altering the accuracy of the verdict. Additionally, in the jury post there is a lot of complexity that poses a threat of overloading their cognitive which hinders their capability to process information and make accurate verdicts. Besides, the introduction of new and non-double sentencing questions to the jury poses a high probability of altering the facts via framing effects (p. 396). This poses the threat of confusing the jury influencing them to make wrong conclusions in the verdict process. Finally, the jury has to deliberate before making a decision. This introduces subjectivity and biases in the process through polarization or vote-trading that leads to inaccurate verdicts (Anwar et al., 2015, p. 43).
Despite these assessments, according to Lieberman et al. (2016), nearly 80% of the verdicts of the jury have been agreed upon by the judges. The high level of agreement takes place in cases that have differing legal and factual complexity (p. 495). Additionally, when there is a disagreement arising between the judges and jury each side provides there evidence to support their decision. This provides an opportunity for them to work together to counter their disparities and formulate uniform verdicts in the cases that they are handling (Anderson, 2015, p. 39). The below recommendations will improve the jury decision making process.
Firstly, the jury should be encouraged to focus on evidence rather than verdict driven judgements. The evidence-driven approach provides each member of the jury with a chance to form an opinion about the case, hence ensuring an objective verdict. On the other hand, the verdict-driven is subjective and prone to bias where the juries have an early vote. They then structure their verdict to ensure that they find one that is suitable to all the members in the jury panel (Feigenson, 2016, p. 27).
Secondly, the jury should be able to take notes during the court case and be provided with an opportunity to ask questions. This is i...
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