Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2000


Jury deliberation, Juror decision making, Civil trials, Jury reforms, Juror opinion formation, Empirical legal studies


Applied Statistics | Civil Procedure | Evidence | Litigation


The question of when and how jurors form opinions about evidence presented at trial has been the focus of seemingly endless speculation. For lawyers, the question is how to capture the attention and approval of the jury at the earliest possible point in the trial. Their goal is to maximize the persuasiveness of their arguments--or at least to minimize the persuasiveness of those of the opposing side. Judges, in contrast, are more concerned about prejudgment. They regularly admonish jurors to suspend judgment until after all the evidence has been presented and after the jurors have been instructed on the law.

Yet in the vast majority of jury trials, lawyers and judges have little opportunity to discern how jurors are reacting to trial evidence or whether they are abiding by judicial admonitions. Although researchers have thoroughly examined juror decision making in laboratory experiments, the point at which jurors form opinions in actual jury trials remains cloaked in mystery. Recently, however, that cloak was lifted enough to provide a glimpse at the timing of juror opinion formation. The opportunity to do so came in conjunction with an evaluation of a jury reform procedure implemented in Arizona civil trials in 1995. Data collected for the evaluation included the responses of 1,385 jurors from 172 civil trials concerning when they began to form opinions about the case, whether and when they changed their minds about those opinions, and when they made up their minds about the final outcome.

This Article presents three competing models of juror decision making as they pertain to the timing of opinion formation. Using these models as an analytical guide, this Article examines the data from the Arizona study to assess convergence with these models and to identify factors that affect the timing of juror opinion formation in civil trials.

Publication Citation

Published in: Tennessee Law Review, vol, 67, no. 3 (Spring 2000).