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Deliberation Quality: A Preliminary Examination in Criminal Juries


  • We wish to express our thanks and appreciation to the judges and staff of the Marion Superior Court in Indianapolis, Indiana, for making this study possible. We also thank Julie Devine for her helpful editorial assistance.

*Dennis J. Devine, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, 402 N. Blackford St., Indianapolis, IN 46202-3275; email: Buddenbaum is at the Indiana University School of Medicine, Children's Health Services Research. Houp is at the Department of Psychology, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis. Stolle is at ThemeVision. Studebaker is at the Department of Psychology, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.


Large-scale studies of the deliberation process in actual juries have been surprisingly rare, and relatively little attention has been devoted to how well juries deliberate. This study identified a set of process-related criteria relevant to the quality of criminal jury deliberations and examined empirical relationships between indicators of these criteria and jury verdicts. Data were obtained via posttrial surveys from jurors and legal professionals associated with 179 criminal jury trials in Indiana. The quality of deliberations varied across the process criteria, with juries reportedly doing fairly well in terms of understanding their instructions and reviewing the evidence, but not as well with regard to systematically gathering input from their members, adopting an evidence-driven deliberation style, and avoiding factionalism. Several deliberation variables were also strongly related to jury verdicts, particularly the foreperson's initial verdict stance and the emergence of an identifiable pro-acquittal faction leader. Discussion of reasonable doubt and thoroughness of evidence review also tended to be negatively correlated with conviction even when strength of evidence was controlled. This study calls attention to the importance of deliberation quality.