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Psychology Of The Courtroom Essay

2505 words - 10 pages

Psychology of the Courtroom
Works Cited Missing
'While the jury can contribute nothing of value so far as the law is
concerned, it has infinite capacity for mischief, for twelve men (sic)
can easily misunderstand more law in a minute than the judge can
explain in an hour.' Judge Jerome Frank (USA) 1948.

Juries listen to evidence sometimes over considerable period of time
without having a legal context in which to place it. By the time and
explanation of its legal relevance is provided - when the judge gives
the final summing up - the evidence has all been heard and must be
recalled to mind and fitted within the legal framework. It is scarcely
surprising, therefore, to find that if a judicial summing up
simultaneously reminds jurors of some evidence they heard but
instructs them to disregard it, the admonishment appears to be counter
productive (Hastie et al 1983).

Studies of juror comprehension of legal instructions have produced
conflicting results. In a study by Heuer and Penrod (1995) who
questioned jurors who had participated in real trials, the jurors
became less confident that the verdict complied with judicial
instructions as the quantity of information increased. However, they
were still content with the fairness of the proceedings, although they
were more confident of that where they were able to question
witnesses.

Work of Prosecution and Defence Lawyers

Lawyers will attempt to use psychological techniques to support the
jury accepting their case. Frederick (1990) has detailed some of the
more important features of opening and closing statements that help to
persuade juries of their position.

Features of Persuasive Openings and Closings (Frederick 1990) -

Techniques that lawyers use to support their opening and closing
arguments include -

First, they present a clear theme of the case. A good theme provides
the jurors with both the conceptual framework for the facts and the
emotional undercurrent for the case.

Second, persuasive openings and closings are well-organized.
Consideration is given to the placement of key information or points
in the presentation, capitalizing on the presence of primacy and
recency effects. Primacy and recency refer to the principle that
information is remembered best when encountered first or last,
respectively. The issue of when primacy or recency effects will
dominate is complex. However, as a rule, information encountered in
the middle of a presentation is remembered least well.

Jury Selection

Whilst no qualifications are required to sit on the jury and one might
therefore assume that the first 12 people selected would form the
jury, there are procedures by which objections may be made to...

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