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Jury research is an umbrella term for various methods of research associated with jury trials. It could include (but is not limited to) prospective jurors demographic research, mock trials, jury selection, shadow jury or post-trial jury interviews. Generally jury research is a part of a trial strategy in high stakes cases in civil or criminal litigation.
There have been plenty of attempts to use science—particularly psychology or sociology—to get an edge in jury trials. Jury research was successfully used during the IBM antitrust trial in 1969 and O. J. Simpson murder case. Today, there are many companies and individuals providing services as a jury consultants or trial strategists.
Research for jury trials comprises a small proportion of jury research. Academic research on juries produces hundreds of articles per year from scholars in psychology, communication, sociology, and criminal justice. This research is conducted to understand how juries operate rather than to give one side or the other an edge in a specific trial. Jury consultants and trial strategists represent just a few of the people who research jury trials.
Methods and myths
Jury consultants can not guarantee victory in a case, nor can they pick a jury that will rule in their client's favor. Their job is rather to shape trial team strategy so it tells the most persuasive story accommodating a particular venue's jurors preexisting beliefs and experiences.
Regular market research techniques are usually used—phone surveys, focus groups, feedback sessions and so on. Surrogate jurors are selected to represent a jury pool in a venue. They are presented with general demographic questions and some facts relevant to the case. Facts could be presented in different combinations to groups in order to test different strategies. Visual exhibits, witnesses, metaphors and examples of a case, timeline of events—all could be subjected to multiple jurors perspectives.
Pre-trial research techniques are also sometimes used to prepare for settlement negotiations. Post-trial juror interviews sometimes allow for better understanding of mistakes or good arguments made in a trial, and that knowledge could be used for future trials or for an appeal.
- Erlanger, Howard S. (1970). Jury Research in America: Its Past and Future. Law & Society Review 4 (3): 345–370.
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