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Juror comprehension and the hard case - Making forensic evidence simpler

By M. Findlay

Abstract

The complexity/comprehension nexus as it impacts on juror decision-making is addressed in the particular context of prosecution-led DNA evidence. Such evidence is for jurors the subject of pre-trial preconceptions, and is notoriously difficult to present and argue before a jury. The article looks at the comprehension of forensic evidence by jurors, a task qualified by the opinion of legal professionals whose responsibility it is to present and interpret such evidence in adversarial contexts.\ud Jurors were surveyed post-verdict in trials where forensic evidence featured in circumstantial cases. These insights into comprehension were qualified by contesting views of legal professionals, and critical reflections from independent observation teams regarding the manner in which this evidence was used and its intended impact on the jury. What results is both declared and implicit indicators of comprehension, not so much against broad measures of complexity [Findlay, 2001. Juror comprehension and complexity: strategies to enhance understanding. British Journal of Criminology 41/1, 56.], but rather the particular place of popularly endowed forensic evidence within the circumstantial case.\ud \ud The article explores the utility of a multi-methodological study of comprehension from the perspectives of the proponents, commentators, recipients and observers of the adversarial contest. To this is employed a interactive analysis of important decision-sites and relationships of influence in the trial as they may impact on comprehension and be measured as ‘complex’.\ud \u

Publisher: Elsevier B.V.
Year: 2008
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.whiterose.ac.uk:5381

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