The Differential Effects of American and British Trial Proceedings on Juror Decision-making

Marisa Evelyn Collett, Florida International University


Seven basic elements differentiate British from American trial procedures: confining attorneys to their tables; dealing with objections outside the presence of the jury; resolving disagreements between attorneys prior to objections being made; presenting the defense opening statement at the close of the prosecution case; the judge directly questions witnesses and has a wider latitude in controlling the evidence; and the judge gives a summation of all the evidence presented to the jury (Fulero & Turner, 1997). The present experiment examined the influence of these different courtroom procedures, judges' non-verbal behavior, and evidence strength on juror decision-making. Using models of persuasion to understand how the varying elements may effect juror decision-making, it was predicted that trials following American courtroom procedures would be more distracting for jurors and as such, they would be more likely to rely on the peripheral cue of the judge's expectations for trial outcome as expressed in his nonverbal behavior. In trials following British procedures jurors should be less distracted and better able to scrutinize the strength of the evidence that in turn should minimize the influence of the judge's nonverbal behavior. Two hundred forty-five participants viewed a mock civil trial in which courtroom procedure, judge's nonverbal behavior, and evidence strength were varied. Analyses suggest that courtroom procedure and evidence strength influenced the direction of participants' verdicts, but that judge's nonverbal behavior did not have a direct impact on verdict preference. Judge's nonverbal behavior appeared to influence other measures related to verdict. Participants were more confident in their verdicts when they agreed with judge's nonverbal behavior and when they viewed British courtroom procedures. Participants were more likely to return estimates of the defendant's liability that reflected judge's nonverbal behavior and a congruency with evidence strength. Participants also recalled more facts in the British conditions than in the American conditions. These findings are interpreted as indicating the importance of the impact of trial procedures and of nonverbal influence.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Law

Recommended Citation

Collett, Marisa Evelyn, "The Differential Effects of American and British Trial Proceedings on Juror Decision-making" (2001). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3018477.