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The Jury Is Out on City Jury vs. Country Jury

Over at her blog Deliberations, Wisconsin-based lawyer and jury expert Ann Reed explores an interesting question: Would you rather have 12 jurors who lived in the closest major city to you, or 12 who came from that city's suburbs? Reed's post analyzes a recent study that concludes Baltimore juries are less likely to convict than those drawn from the surrounding suburbs. From the study:

On average, Baltimore City juries convict defendants of one or more charges 57% of the time compared to 72% of defendants convicted in [comparison suburban] jurisdictions – a significant difference of 15% (p<.05). Similarly, Baltimore City juries are 29% less likely to find defendants guilty of the most serious offense (p<.01) than the other jurisdictions.

Reed suspects that many will use the study as support for the proposition that jurors are soft on crime, but Reed argues that it's not so simple because other factors are at play. For example, urban prosecutors handle a heavier caseload, leaving them less time to develop a strong case. Voir dire in Baltimore courts is also more formulaic, while selection in other locales may be more detailed. Finally, police in urban cases may not be as trusted by urban juries. 

Reed concludes that as with other juror studies, it's difficult to arrive at definitive conclusions about trends because there are so many variables (which I realized in discussing another recent study concluding that English-speaking Hispanics get better results at trial). Ultimately, as Reed concludes: "When a lawyer is standing in front of a single real jury box in a single real case, no research can say for sure what that tiny group of individuals will decide."

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on September 11, 2008 at 02:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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