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Representation through Participation: A Multilevel Analysis of Jury Deliberations


  • Erin York Cornwell,

  • Valerie P. Hans

  • This project analyzes data gathered under Grant No. 98-IJ-CX-0048, National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice or the National Center for State Courts. We are grateful for comments from the L&SR reviewers and editors, as well as those of Margaret Andersen, Benjamin Cornwell, Shari Seidman Diamond, Paula Hannaford-Agor, Jerry Kang, Elissa Krauss, Emily Owens, Françoise Vermeylen, and Nicole Waters. We thank Emily Cusick and Mitchell Drucker for research assistance in the development of this project. Please direct correspondence to Erin York Cornwell, Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853; e-mail:, or to Valerie P. Hans, Professor of Law, Cornell University Law School, Ithaca, NY 14853; e-mail:


Fully participatory jury deliberations figure prominently in the idealized view of the American jury system, where balanced participation among diverse jurors leads to more accurate fact-finding and instills public confidence in the legal system. However, research more than 50 years ago indicated that jury-room interactions are shaped by social status, with upper-class men participating more than their lower-class and female counterparts. The effects of social status on juror participation have been examined only sporadically since then, and rarely with actual jurors. We utilize data from 2,189 criminal jurors serving on 302 juries in four jurisdictions to consider whether—and in what conditions—participation in jury deliberations differs across social groups. Our results indicate the continuing importance of social status in structuring jury-room interactions, but also reveal some surprising patterns with respect to race and gender that depart from earlier research. We also find that contextual factors including location, case characteristics, and faction size shape the relationship between social status and participation. We conclude with a critical discussion of our results and urge other researchers to take into account contextual factors when examining how individual juror characteristics shape what happens inside the jury room.