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Jurors are competent cue-takers: how institutions substitute for legal sophistication1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 February 2007

Cheryl Boudreau
Affiliation:
University of California, San Diego, Department of Political Science

Abstract

What conditions are necessary for juries to work effectively? Legal scholars and social scientists have debated this question, and research in psychology and law demonstrates that jurors are easily confused by scientific evidence and readily swayed by the slick framing of argument. Rather than condemn juries as unworkable, however, I demonstrate experimentally that jurors need not possess legal or scientific sophistication to make reasoned choices during trials. Specifically, I demonstrate that various institutions embedded in our legal system (such as penalties for lying and the threat of verification) can substitute for sophistication and enable even unsophisticated individuals to learn what they need to know. Based on these findings, I argue that rather than advocate blue ribbon juries and bench trials as replacements for citizen juries, scholars should instead seek substitutes for jurors’ lack of sophistication in the institutions of our legal system.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2006

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