Dateline: November, 2021, Issue 4

What are the effects of juror note-taking during trial?

Juror note-taking is now practiced in a majority of the nation’s courtrooms. In some states, trial judges are required to inform jurors that those desiring to take notes may do so and to furnish jurors with the necessary materials. Trial judges in most other state and federal courtrooms may permit juror note-taking at the judge's discretion.

Considerable research on juror note-taking has been conducted in both actual and mock trials for many years. Extensive pilot programs and field studies on juror note-taking have been undertaken with real jurors who sat on actual criminal and civil cases. Well-conducted mock jury studies have simulated the experience of sitting on a jury. The results of these studies on juror note-taking during trial have been consistent over many years and across different research methodologies.

Reviews of this extensive research on juror note-taking (Dann et al., 2004; Chalmers & Leverick, 2018) report that:

Jurors endorse being allowed to take notes. Suggested disadvantages to juror note-taking have not materialized in research. While jurors make comments about their notes during deliberations, neither the note-takers nor the notes themselves are accorded undue weight. Note-taking aids jurors' memory for, though not their comprehension of, trial evidence and jurors feel more satisfied when permitted to take notes.

SourceChalmers, J. & Leverick, F. (2018). Methods of Conveying Information to Jurors: An Evidence Review. Edinburgh: The Scottish Government.

SourceDann, B.M., Hans, V.P. & Kaye, D.H. (2004). Testing the Effects of Selected Jury Trial Innovations on Juror Comprehension of Contested mtDNA Evidence: Final Technical Report.. Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.