Judges and Juries: The Defense Case and Differences in Acquittal Rates



This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Errata to Law & Social Inquiry 33(1), 2008 Volume 33, Issue 2, 573, Article first published online: 2 May 2008

  • Daniel Givelber is a Professor of Law at Northeastern University's School of Law and can be contacted at d.givelber@neu.edu.

  • Amy Farrell is the Associate Director of the Institute on Race and Justice and a Principal Research Scientist in the College of Criminal Justice at Northeastern University, and can be contacted at am.farrell@neu.edu.


Kalven and Zeisel's (1966) classic study, The American Jury, concluded that juries were “in revolt” from the law when they acquitted when judges would have convicted. Using data collected by the National Center for State Courts to examine jury decision making in four different communities, this article reexamines the question of the judge and jury's respective fidelity to the law and evidence by examining the influence on judge and jury of the defendant's evidence, his criminal record, and his reason for refusing to plead. No data can tell us definitively whether the judge is correct and the jury in error when they disagree, but the data analyzed in the present study can tell us whether the factors that move the jury and fail to move the judge are or are not consistent with the innocence of the accused.