Improving Juror Comprehension of Judicial Instructions on the Entrapment Defense1


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    The authors would like to acknowledge the cooperation of attorney Joe Friedberg and U.S. Attorney Richard Vosepka, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Sidney Abramson in constructing the trial stimulus. We are also grateful to Patrick McCoy, Mara LaNasa, Julie Friedman, Lisa Sarafolean, and Kelly Sherack for their research assistance and to John Fleming and Marti Hope Gonzales for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dean Morier, Department of Psychology, Mills College, Oakland, CA 94613; or to Eugene Borgida, Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, 75 East River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455.


When the defense of entrapment is raised, the legal and psychological question is not whether the defendant committed some illegal act, but rather why the defendant behaved as he or she did and whether government agents' actions provoked the defendant to commit the same crime. The subjective test of entrapment focuses on the predisposition of the defendant to commit a particular crime, while the objective test focuses on situational forces. In Study 1, type of entrapment defense (subjective, objective) and the defendant's prior record (no prior record, prior record) were experimentally manipulated. As expected, superior comprehension of the judge's instructions was found for jurors who heard subjective test instructions. Study 2 was designed to improve the comprehension and judgments of jurors who received 1 of 3 versions of the objective test. Juror comprehension of key legal concepts and subsequent judgments improved if jurors heard one of the rewritten versions of the objective test.