Educating Jurors on Instructions and Legal-ease Objectivity in the California Legal System


During criminal court proceedings, jurors frequently express confidence in their ability to comprehend juror instructions and legal language. However, much study has shown that this is not the case. In California, previous legal language instructions (Caljic) have been updated by modern, ostensibly simpler to understand instructions (Calcrim). Do the newer instructions, on the other hand, help juror comprehension? The goal of this study is to compare and contrast these two types of jury instructions. A total of 312 native English speakers worked as mock jurors, reading from a trial transcript with various Juror instructions (Calcrim, Caljic, or non-descript instructions). After the trial transcript was completed, jurors were expected to declare a judgement, consider a sentence, and be questioned on understanding, the legal definitions of reasonable doubt, circumstantial and direct evidence, and intent. According to the findings, jurors comprehended the new instructions far better than the previous instructions. Jurors who were given the new instructions were substantially more likely than those who were given the old instructions to reach a correct conclusion. Jurors were also shown to be significantly better at discerning reasonable doubt and evidence in the novel instruction condition than in the old and non-descript conditions.

Author(s) Details:

Russ K. E. Espinoza,
California State University, Fullerton, USA.

John Coleman,
California State University, Fullerton, USA.

Jennifer V. Coons,
California State University, Fullerton, USA

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