The ABA Journal has a great article on jury deliberations…with a camera in the jury room watching how it all happens. A couple snippets from A Peek in the Jury Room:
About 40 lawyers and judges at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Miami on Saturday got a peek into the deliberations of 50 actual civil juries handling trials in Arizona. There is one hitch. The findings come via researchers who, to get the court system and jurors to go along with the project, agreed that no one else ever will see the videotapes. And no identifying information will be released that would point to which juries and which cases.
This article popped into my email box yesterday, just one day after I wrote about the Scooter Libby jury walking into the courtroom on Valentine’s Day wearing red shirts with hearts on them. I wrote how juries are so often underestimated, even by the lawyers who appear before them, and treated as dumb “malleable creatures.”
So what does the researcher Shari S. Diamond say about the results of her study?
Diamond told the group that many of us hold misconceptions about juries. We believe, for example, that jurors are easily manipulated and often make up their minds before deliberations begin; that they take an immediate vote; and that the majority browbeats or otherwise persuades the others to come around.
“But actual deliberations were far more complicated in the civil cases we studied,” Diamond said.
On Feb. 5th I was selecting a jury in a personal injury case and, lo and behold, a personal injury attorney was in my jury pool. He then proceeded to talk himself off the panel. As I noted in a separate post, a trial attorney talking himself off jury duty is a big mistake.
That picture above, by the way? Watergate jurors listening to Nixon’s tapes. The sketch hangs in my office. As a constant reminder of so many different things, including the importance of juries.