One Voice Among Many: Forepersons, Juries, and the Importance of Communication
Feller, Traci Margaret
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Jury forepersons are fundamental to the deliberations over which they preside, and thus our justice system. This dissertation explored who became jury forepersons, how they were selected, how they communicated and behaved during the deliberations, and how these factors might have impacted the perceptions of the jurors in the deliberation. I examined video recordings of 22 mock jury deliberations, performed content analysis, and administered questionnaires to 249 mock jurors. Overall, I found that females and people of color were not equally represented as leaders of groups and faced greater adversity when asserting themselves to this role. Furthermore, the communications and behaviors of forepersons impacted jurors’ deliberation satisfaction, ratings of the foreperson, impressions of other jurors, and impressions of humanity in general. Only about a fifth of jurors reported wanting to be foreperson, the others cited a lack of knowledge or skill necessary for the role. Nearly two-thirds of jurors stood out to others during the deliberations and this was overwhelmingly due to their communication skills, or lack thereof. This work has several implications for our jury system and how it impacts the justice system at large, and it argues for greater research in the field of jury deliberations and improved instructions for jurors.
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