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Abstract

The jury trial plays a critical constitutional and institutional role in American jurisprudence. Jury service is, technically, the only constitutional requirement demanded of our citizens and, as such, places an important responsibility on those chosen to serve on any jury, especially within the criminal justice system. Jury research has established that, generally, jurors take their responsibilities seriously; they work with the evidence presented at trial and they reach verdicts that correlate to the narratives they develop throughout the trial. But with estimates of wrongful conviction rates as high as five percent in serious felony cases, how are juries getting it wrong? Synthesizing what we know about how juries operate with the patterns identified in wrongful conviction cases, the answer seems clear—the established evidentiary doctrines are sometimes compelling incorrect verdicts by presenting the juries with incomplete and inaccurate evidence while expecting them to develop complete and accurate narratives. Ultimately, the evidence suggests that juries generally bear very little responsibility in the wrongful outcomes in criminal trials. Rather, deeper consideration of the root causes identified across wrongful conviction cases must be considered.

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