By Michael Pressman & Michael Shammas, Research Fellows
Over the course of the past months, the Civil Jury Project has provided recently discharged jurors across the country with a questionnaire about their experiences serving in trials.
Jurors received the questionnaire in one of two ways: (1) Many judges agreed to distribute our questionnaire in person to jurors at the conclusion of their trials. These judges then sent the completed questionnaires to us. (2) We also have the questionnaire on one of our two websites, WeThePeopleWeTheJury.com. Many judges agreed to direct recently discharged jurors to the website, and the questionnaire also can be found by others carrying out simple internet searches. In sum, we have received over 800 questionnaire responses. These were filled out by jurors who served in cases all across the spectrum: state and federal, civil and criminal, short and long, straightforward and complex, and in cities and states all across the country.
As for what types of questions were included in the questionnaires, they addressed a wide variety of aspects of a juror’s experience from start to finish. Some of these questions were fairly specific. For example, among the questions jurors were asked were the following: whether they were told how long the trial would last, and, if so, whether this estimate turned out to be accurate; whether they were provided sufficient instructions and guidance at the outset of the trial to understand what would be required of them throughout; what they thought about the judge’s and lawyers’ management of the case; whether the verdict was affected by potential discrepancies between the lawyers’ skill and preparation; and how technology in the courtroom could have been improved. The jurors were also asked a number of broader and more wide-ranging questions about their experience. For example, jurors were asked how they felt when they received the summons; what their favorite and least favorite aspects of jury service were, and whether, and if so how, their perspective of the judicial system changed after service. Further, there was variety in the structure of the questions; some were yes or no questions, some had a handful of possible answers, and some were completely open-ended.
Starting with this issue of the newsletter, and continuing with future issues, we will post selections of the notable responses and comments we receive in these questionnaires. What follows are the testimonials for this issue.
- “My favorite part of the experience was how much I was respected, by the court, for being a jury member.”
- “Not only did going through the process give me a new respect for the judicial process, but it taught me how to see facts without bringing in my personal bias.”
- “My favorite part of jury service was being able to talk to the judge and the attorneys after the trial.”
- “My least favorite part was that I couldn’t discuss the case with fellow jurors, to make sense of the day to day testimony while fresh in my mind, until after closing arguments and deliberation began.”
- “My favorite part of trial was deliberation among 12 people with 12 different perspectives and still coming to a single resolution. The process restored my confidence in how the system works.”
For more testimonials, including video interviews, click here.