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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)


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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27. Ibid.

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32. Ibid; MacCoun and Kerr, above n 30; Sandys and Dillehay, above n 24.

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36. Devine et al, above n 1.

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56. Ibid, at 46.

57. Ibid.

58. Ellsworth, above n 23; Bridgeman and Marlowe, above n 40.

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62. Young et al, above n 1, at 47.

63. Matthews et al, above n 39.

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67. James, above n 51.

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72. Temkin, J and Krahe, B Sexual Assault and the Justice Gap: A Question of Attitude (Oxford: Hart, 2008). For further discussion, see L Ellison and V Munro ‘A stranger in the bushes, or an elephant in the room? Critical reflections upon received rape myth wisdom in the context of a mock jury study’, manuscript in progress.

73. McCabe, S and Purves, R The Shadow Jury at Work (Oxford: Blackwell, 1974).

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75. Ellison and Munro, above nn 4 and 5.

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81. See also Finch, E and Munro, V Breaking boundaries? Sexual consent in the jury room’ (2006) 26 Legal Studies 303 .

82. Matthews et al, above n 39; Young et al, above n 1.

83. N Madge Summing up – a judge's perspective’ (2006) Criminal Law Review 817.

84. NSW Law Reform Commission Jury Directions: Consultation Paper 4 (NSW Law Reform Commission, 2008) at 235; see also Young et al, above n 1; Semmler, C and Brewer, N Using a flow-chart to improve comprehension of jury instructions’ (2002) 9 Psychiatry, Psychology and Law 262 .

85. Reifman, A, Gusick, S and Ellsworth, E Real jurors' understanding of the law in real cases’ (1989) 16 Law and Human Behavior 539 ; Heuer, L and Penrod, S A field experiment with written and preliminary instructions’ (1989) 13 Law and Human Behavior 409 .

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87. Young et al, above n 1.

* 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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