Are Jurors Influenced by Social and Time Pressure Instead of Persuasion based on Merits of the Case?

Our Orlando Injury Lawyers Explore the Issue

A recent Article in the American Psychological Association publication, Monitor on Psychology, asked a fundamental question trial attorneys have probably been asking for centuries: Do juror pressures lead to unfair verdicts?

The article, written by a PhD from the University of Nebraska and a PhD/JD from the University of Nevada, explains that psychological research is showing that time and social pressures are unfairly influencing verdicts. Often, jurors who find themselves in the minority during deliberations are more likely to give in to normative influence (social pressures) instead of informative influence (actually being persuaded by the merits). This is a huge problem for criminal defendants and is the subject of many criminal appeals – which seems to be the focus of this article. But, it can also be a problem for an injured person who brings a civil action against a wrongdoer or insurance company to recover damages caused by the wrongdoer. Common sense tells us that it can lead to hurried decisions regarding liability, misguided focus away from core case issues, and hastily calculated damages.

The article provides some examples that many trial attorneys and clients know all too well. The jury has been deliberating for 11 hours. It is three days before Christmas. There are errands to run. There are family members and friends to visit or who are visiting. Vacation plans are dependent on the timing of the trial conclusion. The jury gives a message to the trial Judge that they are desperately deadlocked and unable to reach a verdict. The Judge orders continued deliberations and informs the jury they will return the next day if a verdict is not reached. Within the next hour, a verdict is reached. In this example provided by the authors, a criminal defendant was convicted – found guilty of manslaughter. Two hold-out jurors, who were leaning towards acquittal, reported changing their minds because of the Judge’s order and the resulting hostility from fellow jurors. Essentially, peer-pressure revoked this defendant’s liberty.

Jurors are often influenced by time pressure – an upcoming holiday or weekend. As a general rule, there is no time limit on jury deliberation. But, many jurors have felt pressure to wrap up a long trial before a holiday or weekend. Reportedly, research indicates that decisions made under time pressures are not as sound as factors such as greater reliance on thorough and lucid reasoning. Trials should be decided through deliberations based on information, persuasion, and reasoning. Verdicts should be based on the merits of the case, evidence presented, and law as provided by the trial Judge. However, in all actuality, jurors who are tired and under social and time pressures are much more likely to lose willpower and give in to the position of other jurors, regardless of information, persuasion, and reasoning.

Informative influence is a natural part of the judicial process where some jurors attempt to persuade other jurors of the correctness of their position. Trials should not be decided because of normative pressures. But, these pressures can be exacerbated by the orders of trial judges. Having normative pressures intensified by orders from the bench is a practice we, as advocates, must seek to avoid. The parties to any case – civil or criminal – are entitled to a verdict that reflects the genuine beliefs of the jurors, not a verdict rendered to conform to social, time, and other normative pressures.

The law firm Wooten Kimbrough, P. A. is led by a team of Board Certified Civil Trial Attorneys who have the experience to handle your auto accidentmedical malpracticewrongful death or products liability case all the way to trial if necessary. If you need the assistance of an Orlando injury attorney, please call our law firm to set up a free consultation. Our number is 1-800-235-7060.