My colleague Leah Sprain and I have a new article out: Sprain, L., & Gastil, J. (2013). What does it mean to deliberate? An interpretative account of the norms and rules of deliberation expressed by jurors. Communication Quarterly, 61, 151-171.
Here’s a quick summary:
To advance deliberative theory and practice, this study considers the experiences of trial jurors who engaged in deliberation. Conceptualized as a speech event, this article
inductively explores the deliberative rules and premises articulated by jurors. Jurors believe deliberation should be rigorous and democratic, including speaking opportunities
for all, open-minded consideration of different views, and respectful listening. Jurors actively consider information, but face-to-face deliberation is essential for thoroughly processing evidence. Although emotions should not influence the final verdict, participants report that emotions often reinforce deliberative norms. These results inform theory and deliberative experiences in and beyond the jury.
We always enjoy seeing when others find our work useful, and happily, this article was the inspiration for a presentation that a litigator recently gave. Here’s an example of how Ken Broda-Bahm extended our findings into a practical recommendation for litigators. We pointed out that jurors tend to take their experience seriously; they placed great emphasis on “paying attention, making the right decision, and participating in deliberation.” Jurors stressed that “deliberation should be fair, thoughtful, and objective.” Etc. From that, Broda-Bahm extracted this recommendation: “Play to These Ideals in Your Presentation.” He advises: “In addition to thanking jurors for their service or repeating what the judge has already said about their important responsibility, take a moment to add on to that sentiment in a substantive way and tie these ideals to the work jurors will tackle in the end.” He even provided this sample text for litigators:
We understand that you’re not likely to take either my word, or opposing counsel’s word, at face value. Instead, we understand — and appreciate — that you are going to want to look at everything in a way that is thorough, and careful, and fair. And we know that each of you will bring your own voice to the task. And that is how it should be, because your decision and your process are both very important.
Such words can only help convey to jurors the respect for the trial process already shared by so many judges and litigators.