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Getting to (not) guilty: examining jurors' deliberative processes in, and beyond, the context of a mock rape trial

  • Louise Ellison (a1) and Vanessa E Munro (a2)

Abstract

In England and Wales, trial by jury is typically reserved for more serious offences and is by no means the norm of criminal prosecution. Despite this, the jury continues to hold enormous symbolic and practical significance. In a context in which research with ‘real’ juries is prohibited, this paper outlines the findings of a mock study in which members of the public deliberated towards a unanimous verdict, having observed an abbreviated rape trial reconstruction. It reflects on the structural processes (including the use of narrative, the presence of a foreperson and group/inter-personal dynamics) that framed the tone and direction of discussions. In so doing, it generates insight into what may go on behind the closed doors of the jury room in rape cases and – more broadly – highlights the ways in which differently composed juries, when faced with the same scenario, may reach divergent verdicts or embark on radically different routes to reach the same destination. In addition, it explores the extent to which participants, having been directed on appropriate legal tests and burdens of proof, were able to understand and apply these standards; and it reflects on the implications of this in terms of future improvement of the jury trial process, both in rape cases and beyond.

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* The authors would like to acknowledge their gratitude to the ESRC for funding this research (RES-000-22-2374). They would also like to thank the actors and barristers who undertook roles in the trial reconstructions, as well as Kathryn Cruz for her assistance. They are indebted to Richard Hyde who provided excellent research assistance for this article.

Getting to (not) guilty: examining jurors' deliberative processes in, and beyond, the context of a mock rape trial

  • Louise Ellison (a1) and Vanessa E Munro (a2)

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