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Juries, Science and Popular Culture in the Age of Terror

Edited by David Tait and Jane Goodman-Delahunty

Courts around the world are struggling with how to deal with the Age of Terror whilst protecting human rights, the rule of law and the legitimacy of the courts.

One of the key issues that this book explores is whether juries can be fair in terrorism trial – wherein emotions are high, fear is in the air and the risk of intimidation is present.

A second major theme was the impact on jurors of visual evidence in the form of an interactive virtual environment. Were jurors swayed by high-tech evidence and if so, did this push them towards conviction?

A final theme concerned the battle of the experts, how did jurors respond to scientific expert witnesses who presented evidence for the prosecution or challenged it for the defence?

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Who is  this book for?


  • Students, teachers, researchers – in Law, Psychology and Communications
  • Practitioners of law and criminal justice
  • Forensic scientists and psychologists
  • Police, national security officers and court officials
  • Policymakers
  • Journalists.

 

Synopsis  of Chapters


Chapter 1: Understanding Terrorism Trials

The shadow of terrorism falls over courts as well as many other public institutions. Could juries be expected to remain impartial in an age of terrorism? This chapter shows how the book sets out to address this question, as well as other related questions about the role of scientific experts in terrorism trials and the impact of popular culture on juror expectations.

Chapter 2: The Legal Landscape in Terrorism Trials

Terrorist fears have led to harsh counter-terrorism laws that may threaten individual liberties, and undermine the right to a fair trial. This chapter reviews how these harsh laws have developed, illustrated brilliantly by the famous cartoonist Michael Leunig.

Chapter 3: Terrorism Trials: Forensic Science and the Trial Process

Forensic science plays an increasingly important role in contemporary trials. This chapter examines what forensic investigators and scientists do, providing case studies of the Bali Bombings and Benbrika investigations.

Chapter 4: Animating the Bomber: The Sydney Bomber Trial

Visual images don’t just convey information, they may be powerful tools for persuasion. This chapter examines the additional punch that animating the evidence may have, tracing the history from an animated goat on an ancient Iranian bowl to contemporary three-dimensional computer games.

Chapter 5: Gruesome Evidence: The Use of Beheading Videos and Other Disturbing Pictures in Terrorism Trials

Most people find gruesome images compelling. This chapter argues that showing jurors images such as beheading or other atrocities add little relevant information, but creates disgust and anger, undermining right to a fair trial.

Chapter 6: Assessing Unfair Prejudice from Extremist Images in Terrorism Trials

Jane Goodman-Delahunty was appointed as an expert witness in a major terrorism trial in Sydney. She was asked to advise the court about the impact of gruesome images on the jury. This chapter includes a copy of her report.

Chapter 7: Displaying the Bomb on the Train: The Challenge of Preparing Visual Evidence

Creating a high-quality computer simulation of an event requires special expertise. The simulation for this study was produced by Damian Schofield, who describes how he did it and the issues involved in creating evidence displays of this sort.

Chapter 8: Research Aims and Methods

The Sydney Bomber study had two parts, and used a variety of observational, experimental and survey methods to examine how jurors responded to different conditions, how they deliberated and how their responses were shaped by the spectre of terrorism.

Chapter 9: The Sydney Bomber Study: Introducing the Mock Jurors

Mock jurors were fairly similar to regular jurors. Demographic differences did not account for most of the variation in attitude recorded.

Chapter 10: Images of Interactive Virtual Environments: Do They Affect Verdict?

This chapter reviews the estimated impacts of the experimental intervention. Differences were generally small. Jurors who were classified as visual learners were more influenced by information presented in visual form than jurors who self-identified as verbal learners.

Chapter 11: How Juries Talked About Visual Evidence

One of the strongest features of the study was the thoughtful and often heated deliberations carried out by the 12 jury groups. Some of the jurors, whose expectations were shaped by TV drama, were disappointed about the lack of blood and guts in the interactive displays. Others used the displays to take issue with the conclusions of the prosecution witness. Most found that the visual evidence gave them a fuller understanding of the case.

Chapter 12: CSI Effects on Jury Reasoning and Verdicts

Most previous studies suggested the CSI effect was largely a fiction. In the first study in this project we found an effect on conviction rates, with more convictions from jurors most conditioned by CSI watching than from others.  In the second study regular CSI viewers said they found interactive visual evidence more “important” than those who were not regular CSI viewers.

Chapter 11: The Effect of Deliberation on Jury Verdicts

Deliberation did reduce conviction rates. Interestingly the difference was greatest in those who were most afraid of terrorism.

Chapter 12: Making Sense of The Evidence: Jury Deliberation and Common Sense

Jurors used commonsense knowledge – wisdom grounded in their own life experiences – to interpret and make sense of the evidence presented at the trial. When jurors came up with their own theories about what happened these were subjected to a process of careful testing by fellow jurors.

Chapter 13: Conclusions

Sophisticated technologies to display evidence are unlikely to unfairly sway juries too much. But harsh counter-terrorism laws could undermine fundamental freedoms and lead to unjust verdicts.

 

About the editors


Jane Goodman-Delahunty

is a Research Professor at Charles Sturt University, Australia, and a General Member of the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Her recent books include Legal Psychology in Australia (2015), Expert Evidence and Criminal Jury Trials (2016), and Trends in Legal Advocacy: Interviews with Leading Prosecutors and Defence Lawyers Around the Globe (2017).

David Tait is a Professor of Justice Research at Western Sydney University, Australia, and an Adjunct Professor at Telecom Paristech, France. His research focuses on how to make justice environments and processes more humane. His recent work includes Fortress or Sanctuary: Enhancing Court Safety by Managing People, Places and Processes (2014) and reviews of the prejudicial effect of the dock in criminal trials.

 

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