Dateline: April, 2008, Issue 2

How does prior jury experience affect jurors' verdicts?

Prior jury service, either civil or criminal, has a modest influence on verdicts in criminal trials.

Himelein and colleagues (1991) studied 143 criminal trials in Kentucky. Jurors with experience in either civil or criminal trials rendered more severe sentences than did first-time jurors.

Dillehay and Nietzel (1985) reviewed 175 criminal trials throughout a year. As the number of jurors with prior jury experience increased, there was a modest increase in the probability the jury would convict.

Werner and colleagues (1985) analyzed 206 criminal trials. Although more than half of the juries contained experienced jurors, juror experience had little influence on verdicts. There was a slight tendency for small juries with large proportions of experienced jurors to convict.

While prior jury experience can make convictions more likely in criminal trials, this effect tends to be relatively minor.

Source Himelein, M. J., Nietzel, M. T., & Dillehay, R. C. (1991). Effects of prior juror experience on jury sentencing. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 9, pp. 97-106.

Source Dillehay, R. C., & Nietzel, M. T. (1985). Juror experience and jury verdicts. Law and Human Behavior, 9, pp. 179-191.

Source Werner, C. M., Strube, M. J., Cole, A. M., & Kagehiro, D. K. (1985). The impact of case characteristics and prior jury experience on jury verdicts. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 15, pp. 409-427.