Although the right to trial by jury is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, in recent years both criminal and civil juries have been criticized as incompetent, biased, and irresponsible. For example, the O.J. Simpson criminal jury’s verdict produced a racial divide in opinions about that trial. And many Americans still hold strong views about the jury that awarded millions of dollars to a woman who spilled a cup of McDonald's coffee on herself. It’s said that there are "judicial hellholes" where local juries provide "jackpot justice" in medical malpractice and product liability cases with corporate defendants. Are these claims valid?
This monumental and comprehensive volume reviews over fifty years of empirical research on civil and criminal juries and returns a verdict that strongly supports the jury system. Rather than relying on anecdotes, Vidmar and Hans—renowned scholars of the jury system—place the jury system in its historical and contemporary context, giving the stories behind important trials while providing fact-based answers to critical questions. How do juries make decisions and how do their verdicts compare to those of trial judges and technical experts? What roles do jury consultants play in influencing trial outcomes? Can juries understand complex expert testimony? Under which circumstances do capital juries decide to sentence a defendant to die? Are juries biased against doctors and big business? Should juries be allowed to give punitive damages? How do juries respond to the insanity defense? Do jurors ignore the law?
Finally, the authors consider various suggestions for improving the way that juries are asked to carry out their duties. After briefly comparing the American jury to its counterparts in other nations, they conclude that our jury system, despite occasional problems, is, on balance, fair and democratic, and should remain an indispensable component of the judicial process for the foreseeable future.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 2. Criminal and Civil Juries in America from Colonial Times to the Present Day: Evolution, a Heroic Role, and Controversy
Chapter 3. A Jury of Peers: Democratic Goals
Chapter 4. Jury Selection: Juror Bias, Juror Challenges, and Trial Consultants
Chapter 5. Problem Cases: Pretrial Publicity
Chapter 6. The Tasks of the Jury: Evidence Evaluation and Jury Decision-Making Processes
Chapter 7. Judging the Jury: Evaluating Jurors' Comprehension of Evidence and Law
Chapter 8. Trials in a Scientific Age: Juries Judging Experts
Chapter 9. Judging Criminal Responsibility: Erroneous Convictions, the CSI Effect, and the Victim's Role
Chapter 10. Deciding Insanity: Mad or Bad?
Chapter 11. Jury Nullification: The War with the Law
Chapter 12. Death Is Different: Juries and Capital Punishment
Chapter 13. Civil Liability: Plaintiff vs. Defendant in the Eyes of the Jury
Chapter 14. Deciding Compensatory Damages: Million-Dollar Questions
Chapter 15. Punitive Damages: Coffee Spills and Marlboro Cigarettes
Chapter 16. Juries and Medical Malpractice: Anti-doctor, Incompetent, and Irresponsible?
Chapter 17. Concluding: The Verdict on Juries