Cornell International Law Journal


Reasoned verdicts, Juries, Decision-making


Jurors are lay fact-finders, untrained in the complexities of law and legal rules, and yet reasoned verdicts require that their reasons conform precisely to the law. This difficulty is the impetus for additional interaction with the court, as jurors must often call on legal assistance when drafting their verdicts. This necessity undermines the independence and power of jurors and opens the door for external pressures and biases to encroach on jurors’ decisions. When judges overturn jury verdicts that they consider insufficiently reasoned, judges substitute their judgments for those of the jurors. In addition, reasoned verdicts may lead to post hoc rationalizing rather than predecisional reasoning, and can be subject to poor framing and question construction.

Ultimately, it seems a worthy goal to maximize jurors’ decision making while insulating such decisions from external influences. Requiring reasons of jurors may well change how jurors make decisions, but without empirical research, we cannot know if these changes are for the better. Requiring reasons of jurors may not be the panacea we desire, but it seems clear that it will undermine the independence of jurors and juries.