This discussion is a case involving jury instructions. This may be the last legal education and practical advice jurors receive before entering negotiations (Perkel & Perkel, 2015). These instructions play an instrumental role built on when they are given and the substance they contain (Perkel & Perkel, 2015). While the entire jury selection, including the instructions, has good intentions, the research suggests that most jurors do not comprehend their directives and perceive they do (Perkel & Perkel, 2015).
Faced with uncertainty, jurors turn to schemas, integrating their everyday knowledge and interpretation of theories into their analysis of legal rules and relevance to the facts produced (Gordon, 2013). Suppose there is a failure in communication from the attorney during the opening statement. In that case, jurors are likely to substitute commonsense, prior experiences, more straightforward questions, stereotypes, and cognitive shortcuts to simplify their conclusion (Perkel & Perkel, 2015). These adaptive reactions to the intricacy and inadequate communication are helpful in everyday life, yet this can be a problem for jurors since they may or may not contravene the law and facts as they were presented to them (Perkel & Perkel, 2015). The schema that the attorneys have presented may or may not conflict or further enhance the schema already presented in the jury-selected individuals. When people use schemas, mental structures that arrange our understanding of the social world, including mental structures, may influence the knowledge we observe, think, and recollect (Aronson et al., 2019).
One example can be if I served as a juror in a rape trial case when a man was accused of raping a teenage girl. If the defense attorney presented the case that the man had a mental defect or was a victim himself of abuse, this information wouldn’t change my mind. I have relatives of young teenage daughters, which would significantly affect my schemas and sense of protection of a family member for their young child. These feelings that I have would cause a bias in my beliefs that would disqualify me for jury duty for this case.
Aronson, E., Wilson, T. D., Akert, R. M., & Sommers, S. R. (Eds.). (2019). Social Psychology (10th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
Gordon, S., (2013). Through the eyes of jurors: the use of schemas in the application of plain-language jury instructions. Hastings Law Journal, Volume 64, Issue 3. Available at: http://www.hastingslawjournal.org/category/archives/volume-64/volume-64-issue-3/.
Perkel, S., & Perkel, B. (2015). Jury Instructions: Work In Progress. The Jury Expert.
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