Thesis

Contribution of jurors' demographics and jury heterogeneity to trial outcomes

The purpose of the jury is to render an unbiased decision on the guilt or innocence of those accused of a crime. The story model theory suggests that jurors construct stories, drawn from personal experiences, attitudes, and beliefs about the world, to understand the evidence presented in trial. Although the literature on the relationship between jurors' personal characteristics, including demographics, and their verdict has been inconsistent, it suggests that personal characteristics do have a small effect on trial outcomes. This study examined the contribution of jurors' demographic characteristics such as race or ethnicity, sex, age, occupational prestige, marital status, parental status, and community of residence to trial outcomes in 91 Federal Court trials. The relationship between demographic characteristics and trial outcomes was examined at the individual Guror) and group Qury) level. It was hypothesized that demographic variables would contribute to trial outcomes; it was also hypothesized that trial outcomes from juries with greater diversity of jurors' demographic characteristics would differ from juries with less diversity. Although there were no overall significant demographic predictors to trial outcomes, there were case-specific relationships between demographic variables and trial outcomes at both the juror and jury level. Significant patterns found within case types suggest that demographic characteristics can offer attorneys and researchers a basis from which to target and test specific hypothesis about jurors' susceptibility to relevant trial issues.

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