Telling Tales: Exploring Narratives of Life and Law within the (Mock) Jury Room
journal contributionposted on 09.11.2015, 10:38 by Vanessa E. Munro, L. E. Ellison
Based on a findings of a simulation study in which 160 members of the public observed a mini rape trial re-enactment and were then asked to deliberate in jury groups towards a unanimous verdict, this paper explores the extent to which participants were able, and willing, to understand and apply judicial directions, and the legal tests or criteria contained therein. More specifically, it reflects on whether the additional provision of written directions in the jury room influenced the tone or direction of jurors' discussions, and illustrates the limited recourse made by participants to their contents, as well as their tendency to misinterpret or misapply them when they were relied upon. Having done so, this paper moves on to explore the reasons behind this limited impact, suggesting that fundamental tensions may exist between legal and lay imaginaries, such that jurors are reluctant to jettison their more natural inclinations to reach individual and collective verdicts on the basis of narrative constructions grounded in ‘common sense’ and ‘personal experience’.