Deconstructing the minds of jurors: Beliefs about DNA evidence and their relation to guilty verdicts
The purpose of this study was to investigate the ways in which juror beliefs and attitudes about Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) evidence impact juror decision making and verdicts. Accordingly, this study utilized a mock jury trial that included a deliberative phase to examine the impact of juror attitudes and beliefs about DNA evidence on juror pre- and post-deliberation verdicts. After reviewing a written trial summary, 91 male and female jury-qualified adults were selected to participate as research jurors on eight 12-person juries and deliberate a criminal case via the Internet. Following deliberations via a private Internet chat room, jurors were then assessed for their beliefs about DNA evidence and the personality variable of authoritarianism. Limitations in data analysis from this initial study led to the decision to conduct a second study. Participants in Study 2 included 72 male and female jury-qualified adults who agreed to take part as research jurors on six 12-person juries and deliberate a criminal case on the Internet. Three regression analyses examined whether beliefs about DNA evidence, authoritarianism, gender, race/ethnicity, and pre-deliberation/no pre-deliberation were significant predictors of post-deliberation verdicts and change in post-deliberation verdicts. No significant predictors of post-deliberation verdict or change in post-deliberation verdict were found. However, additional findings from exploratory direct entry logistic regression analyses revealed that (a) non-Asian jurors who rendered pre-deliberation verdicts were more likely to vote guilty post-deliberation, and (b) married, Catholic, Republican jurors with positive beliefs about DNA evidence were more likely to change their verdict preference post-deliberation. Implications of the present study for tbrensic practice as well as for future research on the effect of jurors' beliefs about DNA evidence on verdict outcomes are discussed.