An analysis of mock jury deliberations indicated that juries could competently evaluate facts, weed out errors, and focus on important issues. However the jurors' understanding of the law and how to apply it was substantially inferior to their understanding of the facts and issues.
This article has been condensed with permission from one originally published in Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 52, No. 4. Most reference citations have been deleted. For a fully-footnoted copy of the original article, please contact the LQN editor.
Few advocates of the jury system would argue that the average juror as competent a tribunal as the average judge. Whatever competence the jury has is a funciton of two of its attributes: its number and its interaction.
The fact that a jury must be composed of at least six people, with different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives, provides protection against decisions based on an idiosyncratic view of the facts. In addition, the jury must be chosen in a manner that reflects a representative cross-section of community opinion. The jury's competence, unlike that of the judge, rests partly on its ability to reflect the perspectives, experiences, and values of the orgdinary people in the community - not just the most common or typical community perspective but the whole range of viewpoints.
Are Twelve Heads Better Than One?,
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