Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2008


Expert testimony, Jury trial innovations, Scientific evidence, Juries and science, Jury comprehension, Jury MtDNA Study


Evidence | Litigation | Science and Technology Law


The increasing complexity of both criminal and civil jury trials raises a host of issues for lawyers and judges. For the litigator, the first question is whether a jury can be trusted with a case that turns on highly technical evidence. For the trial judge, there are decisions about the admissibility of expert testimony, whether it is based on sound science, and whether a jury is likely to be misled by scientific claims. Should the judge permit jury innovations such as note taking, question asking, and juror discussions of evidence during the trial, hoping to increase jury comprehension of the scientific claims being advanced by the experts?

To study jurors’ responses to scientific evidence and whether trial reforms could improve jury comprehension and use of scientific evidence, our research team conducted a mock jury study using a case with scientific evidence (the Jury MtDNA Study). The mock trial was adapted from a real criminal case in Connecticut. The jurors’ reasonably good comprehension of the scientific evidence, and the fact that some of the innovations produced significant improvements, suggest that a jury trial is a sound choice for a complex case, and that trial innovations are worthwhile.

Publication Citation

Published in: Cornell Law Forum, vol. 34, no. 2 (Spring 2008).