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Trust in juries and courts in the Age of Terror

By Wes Ward, Charles Sturt University   Thursday 8 June 2017
A book co-edited and part-written by a Charles Sturt University (CSU) legal expert has addressed the complex challenges faced by courts in Western democracies trying terrorism cases. Prof Jane Goodman-Delahunty believes that democratic practices such as the right to trial by jury are challenged in these cases by ethical, social and technological barriers.

Juries, Science and Popular Culture in the Age of Terror

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.

Can juries can be fair in terrorism trials – wherein emotions are high, fear is in the air and the risk of intimidation is present? Can jurors be swayed towards a conviction by high-tech evidence? What’s the effect of scientific expert witnesses both for the defence and prosecution?

The Sydney Bomber Study: Introducing the Mock Jurors

Mock jurors were fairly similar to regular jurors. By developing an in-depth profile of the mock jurors based on the beliefs and attitudes that they held when they arrived for jury duty, we could examine how the jurors’ responses to the bombing allegations in the simulated trial varied according to their background characteristics.

Counterterrorist soldiers

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.

Forensic work - chalk outline

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 – jurors who were most conditioned by CSI watching had higher conviction rates than others. In the second study regular CSI viewers said they found interactive visual evidence more “important” than those who were not regular CSI viewers.

CSI team member

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.

Making Sense of Evidence: Jury Deliberation and Common Sense

Jurors used commonsense knowledge – wisdom grounded in their life experiences – to interpret and make sense of the evidence 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. This chapter looks at what members of a mock jury in a terrorism trial said to each other in their deliberations and how they worked together.

Glass dock in courtroom

Glass Cages in the Dock: Presenting the Defendant to the Jury

This article examines legal debates about one important design question – where and how to seat the accused. It tells how courts, spurred on by assertive defence lawyers, fought back to protect the rights of the accused and have provided a more dignified court setting. The abandonment of a glass-framed enclosure, in particular, raised legal issues in the United States. These issues have reappeared in the European and Australia debates.