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Jury deliberations, Juries


Law and Society


Fully participatory jury deliberations figure prominently in the idealized view of the American jury system, where balanced participation among diverse jurors leads to more accurate fact-finding and instills public confidence in the legal system. However, research more than 50 years ago indicated that jury-room interactions are shaped by social status, with upper-class men participating more than their lower-class and female counterparts. The effects of social status on juror participation have been examined only sporadically since then, and rarely with actual jurors. We utilize data from 2,189 criminal jurors serving on 302 juries in four jurisdictions to consider whether—and in what conditions—participation in jury deliberations differs across social groups. Our results indicate the continuing importance of social status in structuring jury-room interactions, but also reveal some surprising patterns with respect to race and gender that depart from earlier research. We also find that contextual factors including location, case characteristics, and faction size shape the relationship between social status and participation. We conclude with a critical discussion of our results and urge other researchers to take into account contextual factors when examining how individual juror characteristics shape what happens inside the jury room.