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Methods of Conveying Information to Jurors: An Evidence Review

Methods of Conveying Information to Jurors: An Evidence Review

Monday, April 30, 2018

ISBN: 9781788517607

Paper suggests that jurors can face considerable challenges in recalling both the evidence and the legal directions in a criminal trial and that they can struggle to understand legal directions. Eight possible methods of improving juror memory and/or understanding were identified: trial transcripts, juror note-taking, audio-visual and digital presentation methods, juror questions, pre-instruction, plain language directions, written directions and structured decision aids (routes to verdict).

Executive Summary

The review draws on international evidence from field studies which are undertaken with real jurors and simulated or ‘mock’ jury studies.

The report highlights a number of practical factors that enhance juror memory and understanding. It found that the most effective methods are juror note-taking, pre-instruction, plain language directions (including written directions) and the use of structured decision aids (routes to verdict). The evidence suggests that they are best used in combination, rather than as alternatives. Aside from juror note-taking, none of these methods are routinely used in Scotland at present.

The deliberation process – whereby individual jurors pool their knowledge – assists to some degree in terms of remembering the evidence but it is less effective at improving the comprehension of legal directions.

In terms of practices used in other jurisdictions, (Australia, Canada, England and Wales, Ireland, New Zealand and the US) the review found that juror note-taking, pre-instruction and written structured decision aids are the three most commonly used techniques, with some jurisdictions using additional written directions to capture points that are not contained in the structured decision aid.