Issue Date: December 28, 2009

Jury System

Since ICOF last covered the jury system in April 2002, the Supreme Court has made several decisions enforcing the sentencing power of the jury, and death-row inmates have accused prosecutors of racism in jury selection in capital punishment cases. Click here for the latest developments concerning this controversial issue.

To most Americans, trial by jury is the cornerstone of the nation's justice system, each citizen's absolute right and the guarantor of a fair and impartial judgment. Over the last 15 years, however, many Americans have come to believe that the ideal of a jury trial has been tarnished. A number of controversial jury verdicts have mystified and angered onlookers. Unprecedented media coverage has showcased the techniques that lawyers use to influence juries, portrayed the social upheavals that can follow unpopular verdicts and demonstrated how complex and extensive the presentation of evidence has become.

Public dissatisfaction with the results of verdicts in such high-profile trials as those of O.J. Simpson (who was acquitted) and John Hinckley Jr. (the man who shot then-President Ronald Reagan [R] in 1981 and subsequently was acquitted by reason of insanity) and others has spurred calls for a reevaluation of the jury system. It has already led to significant reforms in some areas that promise to be repeated throughout the country.

The jury system as it currently stands is defended by people who argue that it is the fairest way to ensure that a person gets a proper trial. Without a jury, they argue, a defendant's fate is in the hands of professionals such as judges who, although they are expected to observe and rule on cases objectively, are often so closely identified with the justice system that they are less capable of approaching cases from various different angles.

Some jury decisions are bound to be controversial precisely because jurors are human and bring different outlooks and instincts to cases, supporters say. Jury systems are not perfect, supporters acknowledge, but they remain one of the best ways to guard against the acceptance of unilateral decisions made by those who may have political agendas.

Skeptics of the effectiveness of jury systems argue, however, that jury trials are often costly, take too long and are characterized by appeals for sympathy on issues, such as race, that are unrelated to the case. They say that the majority of Americans who serve on juries are unable to understand the complexities of most cases, particularly civil ones (those that do not focus on criminal conduct such as murder or armed robbery).

Some people argue for the complete elimination of juries from the American justice system. Others favor reforming the existing system. One increasingly popular reform option is to cease forcing juries to arrive at unanimous verdicts. Several states have implemented that reform for civil cases; a movement is now underway to allow non-unanimous verdicts in criminal cases. Supporters of such changes say that the system will work much more smoothly, while opponents worry that it may become too easy to convict or acquit a defendant even if some jurors have strong misgivings.

History of the U.S. Jury System

The American jury system has its direct roots in medieval England. As early as the 1100s, groups of 12 knights were assembled to resolve disputes over land titles and taxation. The group of 12 gradually evolved into a jury, which had the power to give testimony and ask questions of the accused and accuser, as well as decide the merits of arguments and evidence. Even today, juries frequently are composed of 12 members, although other sizes, including juries of six and nine members, are often seated.

The English jury system is considered an outgrowth of common law, a legal system that developed from the "common customs" of the kingdom. The common law is based on deciding cases by referring to previous judicial decisions rather than to written legal codes (known as civil law and based on the ancient Roman legal system). The link between the common law and the U.S.'s present jury system can be seen in the fact that judges and trials often focus on the facts of the particular case in an effort to arrive at a fair result for the parties involved in the dispute. In practice, written laws have largely superseded common law in state and federal systems, although common law is still influential.

Most of English common law became the foundation of the American system of law. Drafters of the Constitution considered the right to a trial by a jury of their fellow citizens "inalienable" for Americans and wrote it into the Constitution. Civil libertarians, led by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, were instrumental in persuading their fellow drafters to include jury rights in the document. [See 1996 What the Constitution Says]

Over the course of the 19th century, judges gained more power to control juries, and juries' roles became what they are today--hearing evidence and deciding guilt or innocence. Some of the proposed reforms have the potential to return to juries some of the power to participate in trials that they had in medieval times.

Common law, and the jury system that grew from it, varies from state to state. One state, Louisiana, is significantly different from the others in that it bases its legal system on the French system of civil law, the so-called Napoleonic Code. Louisiana law has gradually been altered over the past century, however, to make it conform more closely with the rest of the U.S.

Confidence in Juries Wanes

Although Americans are for the most part proud of the established U.S. and state jury systems, their faith in them and desire to participate have declined recently. According to a poll taken in late 1994 by the Los Angeles Times at the start of the Simpson trial, 55% of Los Angeles County residents had only "some" or "very little" confidence in the jury system. In the same poll, more people, by 57% to 41%, said that serving on jury was a "personal choice," rather than a "civic duty."

When Simpson was acquitted by a Los Angeles jury in October 1995 at the end of his double murder trial, most blacks supported the acquittal, while most whites believed it was the wrong decision. That stark contrast drove home the wide gulf in different ethnic groups' perceptions of the American justice system. Fully two-thirds of blacks surveyed told a 1995 USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll that the U.S. justice system is racist.

Why have so many Americans lost confidence in their jury system? Most observers agree that changes over the last 40 years in the way trials are conducted, along with fundamental changes in U.S. society, have eroded people's faith in the system. These changes, coupled with several high-profile verdicts, have left millions of Americans with the impression that the jury system is deeply flawed. The changes include:

High-Profile Cases Prompt Doubts

Over the last 15 years, a series of controversial verdicts in highly publicized cases have helped polarize opinion about the jury system and raise doubts about its ability to provide justice. Beginning around 1980, with the acquittal of four white Miami, Fla. police officers in the beating death of a black insurance executive, jury verdicts in these cases have outraged, puzzled and dismayed many Americans. Among the cases that have contributed to some degree to disillusionment with some juries are:

The criminal case that focused the most attention on the jury system was undoubtedly the 1995 trial of Simpson for the murder of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. Simpson's acquittal after a nine-month-long trial galvanized public opinion. The case raised important questions of race, spousal abuse, tampering with evidence, jury-selection techniques, judicial incompetence, media in the courtroom and the ability of wealthy defendants to buy a superior defense. According to Stephen Adler, special-projects editor at the Wall Street Journal and the author of a 1995 examination of the jury system, The Jury: Trial and Error in the American Courtroom, the Simpson trial brought "the issue of jury reform beyond the legal profession. More people are looking at jury reform as a sort of public interest."

Media in the Courtroom

One development that has led to doubts about the jury system's ability to cope with the demands of determining rational justice in today's world is the role of media, especially television, in courtrooms. The Simpson trial probably attracted more media attention than any case in history, from the initial arrest in June 1994 to the live reading of the verdict in October 1995. But the influence of the media has been felt in many other trials as well.

Trials have been televised since the late 1970s. In addition to showing the proceedings of a trial, certain types of evidence have been widely shown on television and discussed in print media. For example, few people in the U.S. missed seeing the videotape of Reginald Denny's head being smashed with a brick during the riots in Los Angeles in 1992. The anguished cries of Nicole Simpson's taped emergency telephone calls influenced the opinions of many Americans in the Simpson case.

This increased publicity about the events surrounding trials has several effects on public opinion about the jury system. One result is that the public at large is allowed to view or hear the most sensational pieces of evidence, but usually not in context and not accompanied by the witnesses' and defendants' explanations that a jury hears. For example, the 81 seconds of the videotaped beating of Rodney King was shown on television thousands of times, but not the officers' explanations of King's erratic and possibly threatening behavior. This discrepancy can lead jurors and the public to reach different conclusions about evidence and lead the public to question juries' verdicts. Another problem in perception is caused by the fact that juries are often not allowed, based on judges' rulings of what is admissible evidence, to hear much of the information surrounding a trial that the public has access to.

Finally, the increased media spotlight can affect the way jurors deliberate. "Jurors know they will be pursued by the media, that many of their number will talk to the media and be unguarded in their comments," explained Yale Law School Professor Abraham Goldstein. He added, "This has the potential to destroy the secrecy of the jury room and affect the freedom of the jury to deliberate." Jurors, especially members of ethnic minorities, feel the pressure of their communities and are led to believe that they will have to answer for their decisions. Add to this pressure the realization that their verdicts could have socially damaging consequences--such as the worst rioting in the nation's history that followed the first Rodney King verdicts in 1992--and jurors' jobs have become much more difficult.

Jury Diversity

Throughout much of this country's history, juries consisted of white men only. But a series of court cases since the late 19th century helped create contemporary juries, which look much more like a cross-section of the U.S. population. Potential jurors are generally taken from voter-registration lists, while many states also use lists of registered drivers to widen the pool. The result is a jury pool that includes many more minorities and women. [See 1996 How a Jury is Chosen]

The Supreme Court has limited the use of peremptory challenge, the ability of lawyers and prosecutors to dismiss from the jury panel potential jurors who they do not consider favorable to their case for any reason they choose or for no reason at all. In the past, and to some extent even today, peremptory challenges have been used to exclude blacks, Hispanics, women, older people, younger people, those of certain religions or members of any group deemed unfavorable to a client's case. The perception that lawyers use peremptory challenge to "stack" juries in their favor has led to public disenchantment and questions of fairness and impartiality.

Many observers believe that a more diverse jury more accurately reflects community values. Blacks, especially, have told pollsters that they do not trust all-white juries to deal with black defendants fairly. This concern was one reason Los Angeles County Prosecutor Gil Garcetti decided to try the Simpson case in central Los Angeles, which is populated by many minority groups, rather than in wealthy and nearly all-white Brentwood, the scene of the crime and an area that could have produced an all-or mostly white jury whose verdict might have been questioned.

The other side of the coin, however, is the risk of racial or gender polarity on jury panels. Numerous juries have split along racial or gender lines. One example is the original Erik Menendez trial in Los Angeles in 1994. In that trial, the six men on the jury voted for a murder conviction, while the six women opted for a less-serious manslaughter conviction. The result was a hung jury and retrial. Jury-system critics claim that in a racially or sexually polarized environment, jurors will be tempted to decide cases based on their prejudices and preconceptions rather than on the facts presented.

Consultants Come Under Fire

Hand in hand with the issue of jury makeup is the controversy over the greatly expanded use of "scientific" jury consultants to help lawyers pick and influence jury members. According to most observers, the use of consultants dates from the 1972 conspiracy trial of seven antiwar protesters in Harrisburg, Pa. In that trial, Jay Schulman, a social scientist at Columbia University in New York City, used telephone surveys and interviews to help lawyers develop a profile of a juror most likely to acquit the protesters, who included Roman Catholic priests Daniel Berrigan and Philip Berrigan. Defense lawyers followed that advice in selecting jurors. The jury acquitted the Berrigans on all but a minor charge of smuggling contraband letters out of federal prison, and the use of consultants was considered a key to victory for the defense.

Consultants use a battery of techniques borrowed from social psychology and marketing research to identify potential jurors' opinions on almost any issue considered relevant for the trial. The jury consultants' first goal is to seat those jurors who will be most sympathetic to their client's arguments. The second goal is to advise the lawyers how to present their arguments to the jurors.

For example, the juries for the first Menendez trials were chosen with the assistance of Lois Heaney, a Minneapolis, Minn.-based jury consultant who was hired by the defense. Heaney tried to choose jurors who would be sympathetic to the defense argument that the Menendez brothers acted in self-defense after years of abuse. She focused during jury selection on applicants' attitudes toward psychologists and psychiatrists, whose testimony would be crucial to the self-defense argument. In comparing the Menendez defense with the "battered-wife syndrome" (in which a wife may kill her abusive husband because she is afraid of the next beating), Heaney said, "You really need to have people who understand a psychological self-defense, an urgency to act." The juries in the Menendez brothers' trials deadlocked, as the defense had hoped.

Among the techniques used by jury consultants to pick sympathetic jurors are checking tax records, inspecting potential jurors' cars for bumper stickers, interviewing friends and neighbors, asking provocative questions during selection and even examining the type of curtains that potential jurors hang in their windows. Jurors not meeting the desired profile are then excluded by peremptory challenge. The defense's favorite jury candidates can be excluded by the prosecution and vice versa.

How effective is so-called scientific jury selection? Even consultants do not make exaggerated claims. "People who accuse us of stacking the deck give us too much credit," claims Ronald Beaton, a San Francisco jury consultant. "You can't stack a jury. You can only unstack one." Adds Philip Anthony of Torrance, Calif., a member of the Simpson defense team's jury consultants, "When clients retain us, we tell them that jury selection is 5% of the balance we bring to the equation. But in a trial in which the weight of the evidence is closely balanced, that 5% could be critical."

At any rate, legal teams in important trials are now reluctant to do without the advice of jury consultants, who can cost up to $4,000 a day. In fact, the use of jury consultants "widens the gap that's already there between people who don't have money and those that do," writes jury critic Stephen Adler. Adds Travis County (Texas) District Attorney Ronnie Earle (D), who unsuccessfully prosecuted Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R, Texas) on financial-impropriety charges in 1994, "The real issue is whether the rich and powerful are held to the same standards as everybody else."

Consultants may be much more effective in helping legal teams tailor their arguments to juries. They advise on what sorts of questions to ask and how to ask them, and on which strategies will likely be most effective. They even test arguments and strategies on mock juries and analyze their reception with surveys and focus groups. In one extreme example, jury consultants for the defense team of carmaker John DeLorean, who was eventually acquitted of drug-possession charges in 1984, decided after much discussion that he should drive to the trial in a Mercedes-Benz station wagon, rather than one of his flashy sports cars. "It showed a little touch of elegance," explained jury researcher Elizabeth Loftus, but was not the kind of car a drug dealer would drive.

According to many observers, the wider use of jury consultants has strained the credibility of the jury system even further. Judge Hiller Zobel of the Massachusetts Superior Court has called the entire selection process "a high-stakes game of chance." He also refuted lawyers' and consultants' claims that they seek impartiality, arguing that "despite their pious protestations to the contrary, modern lawyers and their not want impartial jurors; they want jurors who will return a favorable verdict."

Have Cases Become Too Complex?

Yet another factor in the decline of confidence in the jury system is the increasing complexity of cases. Jurors, especially in civil suits, are often forced to listen to months or even years of extremely involved scientific and statistical testimony from a parade of experts. The fact that these experts, chosen by the prosecution and defense, often directly contradict each other, only makes the jury's task more overwhelming. One result of such complexity, says Thomas Munsterman, director of the Center for Jury Studies at the National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, Va., is that many jurors ignore information--no matter how important--that is confusing or conflicting. When experts disagree, "the jurors basically tune out the experts," he explains.

A jury's ability to understand complicated scientific evidence is further compromised by the fact that jurors today are often chosen and approved by lawyers based on their lack of specific knowledge and understanding. In many trials, the ideal juror is one who offers a blank slate to legal arguments about guilt and innocence. Most jurors are also completely inexperienced in how to evaluate evidence, even if they understand it, and in dissecting legal principles.

In addition to these difficulties, it is the judge's responsibility to explain to jurors the law and how they are to apply it in their deliberations. But, according to Zobel, judges' instructions are often read to jurors "in a monotone and [contain] principles that law students take a term to master and whose meaning appellate judges often have palpable difficulty establishing."

Richard Posner, a federal judge and frequent writer on legal and judicialmatters, adds, "My experience has been that when a case turns on which witnesses are lying...juries do fine." But, he adds, "Jurors are at sea in dealing with complex cases...dealing with modern technology or turning on sophisticated statistical evidence or counterintuitive legal doctrines."

Other Factors

Some observers have pointed out the paradox of increased public demands for harsher sentencing of criminals and seemingly incomprehensible jury verdicts that fail to punish some defendants. Virginia Postrel, writing in Reason, sees the acceptance of excuses as the main problem with modern juries. In case after case, from the Menendez brothers to Lorena Bobbitt to the defendants in the Rodney King and Reginald Denny cases, she sees juries that are "shirking their responsibility to make moral judgments....The implication of universal victimhood is universal innocence. No one is guilty, no matter how heinous the crime." Her forecast is not promising: "A government of laws cannot stand against a people who see only victims, against jurors who believe neither in criminals' responsibility nor in their own."

Finally, some experts see the lack of confidence in the jury system as a reflection of a societal distrust of institutions in general. Greg Totten, executive director of the California District Attorneys Association, told the Los Angeles Times, "I think people are more cynical about the system and those who have important responsibilities in it than they used to be." Columbia University Law Professor Gerald Lynch also notes "a greater distrust of authority" and more suspicion of police and prosecutors.

Proposals for Jury Reform

Dissatisfaction with jury verdicts and the system overall has prompted many calls for reform. Reform suggestions can be divided into two basic categories--adjustments in procedure and major reworkings. Even procedural adjustments, however, would have a major impact on jury selection, deliberation and evaluation of evidence.

One reform currently being considered in several jurisdictions is the elimination of the unanimous verdict for certain types of cases. Today, more than 30 states allow juries to decide at least some civil cases by a less-than-unanimous verdict. Two, Oregon and Louisiana, allow 10-2 and 9-3 verdicts, respectively, in criminal cases.

California is expected to have on the ballot in 1996 a referendum to allow 10-2 verdicts in all criminal trials except death-penalty ones. Totten, one of the California proposal's key sponsors, says, "The unanimity requirement is like a cloud hanging over the criminal justice system." Totten claims that lessening the danger of a single juror deadlocking a jury would result in more criminals behind bars, fewer costly retrials and less pressure to plea bargain for lesser charges. Garcetti, the Los Angeles County district attorney and the man responsible for prosecuting several high-profile controversial trials, warns that jurors in trials requiring a unanimous verdict may "ignore the law or the evidence and vote because of personal or political agendas."

Opponents of the measure, including many defense lawyers and some jury experts, say another result would be the wrongful convictions of innocent people. Elizabeth Semel, a San Diego, Calif. defense lawyer and co-chairwoman of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, worries about trampling the rights of dissenters on juries. She counters, "It's extremely important for every one of those 12 members to feel that each one must be attentive." Other critics point out that non-unanimous verdicts would decrease deliberation and the necessity of jurors to comprehensively discuss evidence. However, public opinion as measured by a recent poll of Los Angeles county residents runs almost two-to-one in favor of non-unanimous verdicts.

Oregon's experience with non-unanimous verdicts has been closely analyzed since its introduction in 1934. Robert MacCoun, a public-policy professor at the University of California at Berkeley, found that, contrary to some expectations, conviction rates are not higher. However, the state's hung-jury rate is little more than half that of states requiring unanimous verdicts.

Many states and all federal courts have reduced the size of juries in civil cases, where six people is now the norm. While this reduction saves money, U.S. District Judge Richard Posner warns, "The smaller the jury, the more erratic its performance is likely to be" because it is a smaller sample of the population.

Another option is jury elimination. Many trials, at the discretion of the defendant, may be tried without a jury, with the judge making the ruling. About 95% of all civil trials in the United States are tried without juries. Some reformers see a move toward having cases decided by a panel of judges or other experts as a way to avoid the weaknesses of the jury system. Such arrangements are common in Europe.

However, supporters of juries contend that they are the best way of conferring legitimacy on courts' verdicts. Posner lists several reasons for retaining juries, including his belief that they are a "useful supplement to a professional cadre [that is, judges] of uncertain quality and commitment to justice" and "offer a potential leaven of common sense, of familiarity with the everyday world...and perhaps even a more perfect disinterest, since jurors have no career stakes in the verdicts they render." Adds Stephen Adler of the Wall Street Journal, "If you have a jury that's a true cross-section of the community, I think the public is much more likely to accept the verdict if it comes from a jury than if it comes from a judge--even if it's unpopular."

One proposed reform that would have a significant effect on jury makeup is the elimination of peremptory challenges. While many jurors are eliminated for legal reasons, such as knowledge of the case or inability to render an impartial verdict, others are dismissed for no reason. Lawyers use peremptory challenges to exclude jurors they feel would simply not be sympathetic to their case, which can sometimes be the most intelligent candidates. Barring peremptory challenges would eliminate the mechanism jury consultants use to pick panel members and would therefore reduce the public's concern about highly paid consultants stacking juries, claim opponents of the challenge. It would also improve the quality of juries, add some. An editorial in USA Today (October 12, 1995) suggests:

Just seat the first 12 randomly selected qualified candidates whose minds are open to a serious evaluation of the facts. Then get on with the trial. No tactical questioning. No background investigations. No one sent home on a lawyer's "hunch."

However, supporters of the peremptory challenge, who include most defense attorneys and prosecutors, argue that it is the only way to protect juries from seriously biased jurors or juries that are unrepresentative. A study by the National Jury Project revealed that 25% of prospective jurors presume that a criminal defendant is guilty before the trial starts, even though the presumption of innocence is the basis of the American system of justice.

Another reform proposal is to make jury service less burdensome and more enjoyable. While the confinement of the Simpson jury for almost nine months--and its resultant tensions, which were reported in the press on a regular basis--is unusual, most jurors experience some discomfort and inconvenience. Many jury rooms are bare and uncomfortable, and pay for jurors is as low as $5 a day in some states. Court-arranged child care is rare. Some courts require prospective jurors' presence in the jury room for up to two weeks, even if they are not selected for a trial. Finally, if a juror is sequestered, his or her life will be under extremely tight control for the duration of the trial.

Perhaps the most serious result of these less-than-ideal conditions is that many potential jurors, often those with more education, refuse to serve. Many simply do not answer their jury summons. The Wall Street Journal's Adler claims that the no-show rate is as high as 55% nationally. Others easily find excuses not to serve, in order to avoid missing work, or figure out what to say to get themselves excluded. Some employers pay workers during jury service, although most do not.

Focus on Arizona

Supporters of jury reform have seen some of their proposals adopted in Arizona. On December 1, 1995, a series of reforms were enacted by the state's Supreme Court. The reforms are based on recommendations made by the Committee on More Effective Use of Juries, a panel of former jurors, judges, academics, attorneys and others convened in 1993 by Arizona Chief Justice Stanley Feldman. Among the changes that the state adopted and that are being watched closely by reformers around the country are:

The changes are aimed at making jurors more active participants, promoting a more democratic juror experience and incorporating modern behavioral theories about how people learn, process information and make decisions.

Most of these reforms were tested in Arizona Superior Court Judge Michael Dann's courtroom. Dann, one of the forces behind the Arizona state reforms, is in the vanguard of jury reform in the U.S. He routinely allows jurors to submit questions, take notes on the proceedings and discuss the case as it proceeds. He provides printed instructions to the jury on what they must decide. Dann claims his goal is to make a trial a cooperative educational effort to get at the truth, rather than a contest between two sides. He notes, "We trust [juries] to decide life and death, but we don't trust them to take notes, ask questions and get the information they need to make the right decision."

Outlook for Reform

Are changes like the ones in Arizona, and others such as time limits on the length of trials, likely for the rest of the country? The answer may well depend on public demand. If controversial verdicts continue to mystify and anger citizens, chances are good that at least some reforms are on the horizon. Some observers, including Posner, believe that citizen juries as currently formed and used may rapidly become obsolete and that reforms are needed to ensure the system's survival. Dann prescribes greater roles and participation for juries if the system is to retain its vitality.

Today, however, most reforms are being considered in a piecemeal fashion, says Steven Penrod, a law professor at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Various states have appointed committees to study trial reform, and the American Bar Association (ABA) has convened a symposium on juries. Trial-reform efforts at the federal level are likely to focus on civil-case reform, leaving jury and procedural reform to the states. Ultimately, however, it is likely that jury systems will have to change to reflect modern understanding of how people make decisions if they are to avoid becoming completely outdated and ineffective.

Most people involved with the jury system probably agree with Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School and a former federal prosecutor. "The system as designed can work," she said. "As implemented, it's not working." She cautions, however, that blaming the system for unpopular verdicts, like that in the first Menendez cases, is risky. "There can be rifts between how people think a case should come out, but that represents rifts in society." In an article in Current, Massachusetts Judge Zobel quotes a non-lawyer who says much the same thing: "Do you think the only thing wrong with juries is that they're human?"

As jury-reform proposals gather steam and are considered across the country, controversial cases and verdicts will continue to occupy much of the nation's attention, partly because there are few real-life dramas as exciting as a jury trial. The upcoming "trial of the century" now that the Simpson trial is over is expected to begin shortly in a federal court in Denver, Colo. Timothy McVeigh is accused of playing a role in the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City, Okla. in April 1995, an attack that killed more than 160 people. Prosecutors contend that their case is solid. But, as has been seen in many cases, the final decision--which may be a surprising one--rests with the jury.


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Butler, Paul. "Black Jurors: Right to Acquit?" Harper's (December 1995): 11.

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Cockburn, Alexander. "FIJA and Freedom." The Nation (July 17, 1995): 81.

Cockburn, Alexander. "The Fully Informed Jury." The Nation (July 10, 1995): 44.

Davidowitz, Esther. "The Hidden Perils of Jury Duty." Redbook (January 1994): 80.

Dolan, Maura. "Why Jurors Err: They're Just Human." Los Angeles Times (September 25, 1994): A1.

Dolan, Maura. "Role of Jury Consultants Controversial and Extensive." Los Angeles Times (September 26, 1994): A1.

Dolan, Maura. "Jury System Is Held in Low Regard by Most." Los Angeles Times (September 27, 1994): A1.

Dolan, Maura. "Small Vanguard Presses Its Case for Jury Reforms." Los Angeles Times (September 28, 1994): A1.

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Meyer, Josh. "Poor Conditions Try Jurors' Patience." Los Angeles Times (September 28, 1994): A13.

Monaghan, Peter. "The Stress of Jury Duty." Chronicle of Higher Education (April 14, 1995): A10.

New York Times (January 3, 1996). "Keep Moving on Jury Reform": A14.

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Postrel, Virginia. "Lack of Conviction." Reason (March 1994): 4.

Saltzman, Joe. "The Law vs. The Media." USA Today (January 1995): 65.

Schillinger, Liesl. "Justice for Whom?" Washington Post (February 25, 1996): C5.

Thompson, Helen. "Best-Case Scenario." Texas Monthly (December 1994): 44.

Zobel, Hiller. "The Jury on Trial: Another Controversial Case." Current (November 1995): 8.

Contact Information

Information on how to contact the organizations that are mentioned in the discussion of television content is mentioned below:

Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)
1600 Eye Street N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006
Telephone: (202) 293-1966

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
132 West 43rd Street
New York, N.Y. 10036
Telephone: (212) 944-9800

Keywords and Points

For further information about the ongoing debate over the jury system, search for the following words and terms in electronic databases and other publications:

Erik Menendez
Peremptory challenge
Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA)
Lorena Bobbitt
Common law
J.E.B. v. Alabama

Jury System Update

Since ICOF last covered the jury system in June 1996, several court rulings affected the ways in which juries handed down verdicts and judges dealt with those decisions. Among the key events:

Jury System Update (December 2009)

Since ICOF last covered the jury system in April 2002, the Supreme Court has made several decisions enforcing the sentencing power of the jury, and death-row inmates have accused prosecutors of racism in jury selection in capital punishment cases. Among the key events:

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