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Jury: Behavioral Aspects - Deliberations

verdict vote immediate majority

Deliberations resulting in a group verdict distinguish the jury from its chief alternative, the trial court judge, in two ways. First, the jury verdict in principle reduces the likelihood that the decision will represent an idiosyncratic view of a single deviant decision-maker. Second, in theory, deliberations give the jury an opportunity to profit from the resources of its multiple members and to pool its knowledge and sensibilities to resolve differences. Presumably, a jury verdict reflects more than what could be achieved either by a single decision-maker or by mechanically combining or averaging the preferences of the individual members.

The extent to which deliberations actually do affect jury verdicts in criminal cases is in dispute. Some scholars have suggested that jury verdicts simply reflect the position of the majority before deliberations begin. This suggestion is consistent with the verdict-driven jury that takes an immediate vote to see where each juror stands and then focuses its attention on persuading the minority to join the position initially held by a majority of the jurors. When a vote is immediate, it is likely to reflect predeliberation preferences. When a discussion of the evidence precedes a vote (the so-called evidence-driven jury), that vote will be affected by any changes that have occurred as a result of the discussion. Although jurors often call for an immediate vote, discussions can interrupt before a vote is completed, so that first votes often are not immediate and they imperfectly reflect the individual predeliberation preferences of the jurors. Nonetheless, most juries probably do end up reaching a verdict that reflects the majority position that was apparent at the time most of the jurors expressed a verdict preference in deliberations. The majority, using both normative and informational pressure, persuades the minority to accept its position. When the jury in a criminal case is evenly divided on its first vote, some evidence suggests that the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard will make a not guilty verdict more likely than a guilty verdict.

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