Evaluation of Hung Juries in Bronx County, New York, Los Angeles County, California, Maricopa County, Arizona, and Washington, DC, 2000-2001 (ICPSR 3689)
Principal Investigator(s): Hannaford-Agor, Paula L., National Center for State Courts; Hans, Valerie P., National Center for State Courts; Mott, Nicole L., National Center for State Courts; Munsterman, G. Thomas, National Center for State Courts
This study was undertaken for the purpose of providing an empirical picture of hung juries. Researchers were able to secure the cooperation of four courts: (1) Bronx County Supreme Court in New York, (2) Los Angeles County Superior Court in California, (3) Maricopa County Superior Court in Arizona, and (4) District of Columbia Superior Court in Washington, DC. The four sites were responsible for distributing and collecting questionnaire packets to all courtrooms hearing non-capital felony jury cases. Each packet contained a case data form requesting information about case characteristics (Part 1) and outcomes (Part 2), as well as survey questionnaires for the judges (Part 3), attorneys (Part 4), and jurors (Part 5). The case data form requested type of charge, sentence range, jury's decision, demographic information about the defendant(s) and the victim(s), voir dire (jury selection process), trial evidence and procedures, and jury deliberations. The judge questionnaire probed for evaluation of the evidence, case complexity, attorney skill, likelihood that the jury would hang, reaction to the verdict, opinions regarding the hung jury rate in the jurisdiction, and experience on the bench. The attorney questionnaire requested information assessing the voir dire, case complexity, attorney skill, evaluation of the evidence, reaction to the verdict, opinions regarding the hung jury rate in the jurisdiction, and experience in legal practice. If the jury hung, attorneys also provided their views about why the jury was unable to reach a verdict. Finally, the juror questionnaire requested responses regarding case complexity, attorney skill, evaluation of the evidence, formation of opinions, dynamics of the deliberations including the first and final votes, juror participation, conflict, reaction to the verdict, opinions about applicable law, assessment of criminal justice in the community, and demographic information.
The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.
Hannaford-Agor, Paula L., Valerie P. Hans, Nicole L. Mott, and G. Thomas Munsterman. EVALUATION OF HUNG JURIES IN BRONX COUNTY, NEW YORK, LOS ANGELES COUNTY, CALIFORNIA, MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA, AND WASHINGTON, DC, 2000-2001. ICPSR version. Williamsburg, VA: National Center for State Courts [producer], 2003. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2003. http://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR03689.v1
Persistent URL: http://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR03689.v1
This study was funded by:
- United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (98-IJ-CX-0048)
Scope of Study
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Study Purpose: In the mid to late 1990s, the criminal justice community developed an intense interest in the phenomenon of jury deadlock, more commonly known as a "hung jury." Several factors prompted this interest. A number of communities, especially in California, were reporting that more and more criminal jury trials were routinely resulting in mistrials due to jury deadlock. Other urban areas including the District of Columbia and Manhattan, New York, began reporting similar trends regarding hung jury rates. These increasing numbers raised significant concerns about the monetary costs associated with retrying cases as well as the emotional toll on victims and witnesses and potential public safety costs associated with criminal defendants serving less time in prison due to the failure of the jury to convict. Despite new of proposals designed to reduce the number of hung juries, no government agency or research institution has ever determined a "normal" hung jury rate or standards for an acceptable range of hung jury rates. Consequently, it is difficult to compare current hung jury rates to a baseline. Although there is much speculation about the factors that contribute to jury deadlock (evidentiary problems such as witness credibility, jury misunderstanding of evidence or substantive law, racial conflict, jury nullification), very little empirical research exists to verify these claims. This study was undertaken for the purpose of providing an empirical picture of hung juries.
Study Design: Originally, researchers envisioned their project as a two-phase process. In the first phase, researchers proposed to conduct a broad-based survey of hung jury rates in state and federal courts while the second phase would consist of an in-depth examination of jury behavior in ten jurisdictions to compare case and jury characteristics in felony trials that resulted in a verdict to those that resulted in jury deadlock. The first phase turned out to be critically important to the project. Ultimately, researchers were able to collect and compile statistics about hung juries from state courts and from prosecutors' offices in 30 jurisdictions and from all federal courts. However, in doing so, they discovered an important source of variation across jurisdictions -- the definition of a "hung jury." In some jurisdictions, a jury was counted as "hung" if it failed to reach a verdict on any charge or on any defendant. In other jurisdictions, a hung jury was only counted if it hung on the most serious charge. Some only counted a hung jury if it hung on all counts or on all defendants. Obviously, these disparate definitions had a significant effect on hung jury rates and made it very difficult to compare rates across jurisdictions. The research team wanted to be be able to capture this degree of detail in the second phase of the study. The second phase of the study (comprising the data in this collection) was intended to compare various characteristics of jury trials that resulted in deadlock to those that resulted in verdicts across at least ten jurisdictions. However, some courts declined to participate due to concerns about the administrative burden of data collection on their staff. A more significant issue, however, was judicial sensitivity to the inviolability of jury deliberations, especially in felony jury trials. In spite of various procedures that researchers put in place to protect the confidentiality of the data, many courts were concerned that the information collected from jurors might provide a basis for convicted defendants to appeal the verdict. Researchers were able to secure the cooperation of only four courts: (1) Bronx County Supreme Court in New York, (2) Los Angeles County Superior Court in California, (3) Maricopa County Superior Court in Arizona, and (4) District of Columbia Superior Court in Washington, DC. The four sites were responsible for distributing and collecting questionnaire packets in all courtrooms hearing non-capital felony jury cases. Misdemeanor cases were excluded because hung juries in serious felony trials are typically of greater concern to justice system policymakers. Capital cases were also excluded because of the severity of the sanction and the potential that confidential juror questionnaire data might be requested to support an appeal from a conviction. The data collection protocol and questionnaire materials underwent a pretest in Los Angeles in July 1999. Fifty trial packages containing questionnaires and case data forms were distributed to judges in non-capital felony trials. The research staff obtained data on 16 completed trials including two hung jury trials. In December 1999, the project Advisory Committee offered its recommendations for modifications to the survey instruments and data collection protocols. Based on these recommendations, the surveys were revised to more accurately capture the nuances of measuring hung jury rates. In addition, one of the questionnaires that was to be administered to jurors was revised to avoid responses that would provide grounds for a defendant's inquiry into the validity of the verdict. Finally, data collection protocols were refined to increase the return rate of survey packets. Each packet contained a case data form requesting information about case characteristics (Part 1) and outcomes (Part 2) as well as instructions and questionnaires for the judge (Part 3), attorneys (Part 4), and jurors (Part 5). Judges and key court personnel were briefed on the project and instructed as to how the packet distribution was to occur. Packets were sent from the jury assembly room to the courtrooms with the panel for voir dire (jury selection process). Once the jury was selected, court personnel distributed the packets to the judge and/or court clerk. If the case proceeded through to jury deliberations and was not prematurely ended by a plea agreement, dismissal, or mistrial for some reason other than the jury's inability to arrive at a unanimous verdict, the judge was asked to complete the judge survey. In addition, either the clerk or the judge was to complete a questionnaire on the general case information using a case data survey form. Once the jury retired to deliberate, court personnel distributed the judge and attorney questionnaires. The judges and attorneys were asked to complete the questionnaires in two stages, answering some questions prior to the jury decision and the remaining questions after the jury rendered its verdict or the case was declared a mistrial. The court personnel distributed the final set of questionnaires to the jurors after the verdict was announced or a mistrial declared. To protect confidentiality, respondents were provided blank envelopes in which to place the completed questionnaire. Court staff collected the completed questionnaires and gave these to the designated court liaison for each site, who forwarded the cases on to the project staff for data entry and analysis. Because the study design included collection of information from key trial participants, including jurors, a protocol was developed that balanced the importance of confidentiality and the defendant's Sixth Amendment rights. The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) regulations required that the research team maintain the confidentiality of study data and prohibit their use in adjudicatory proceedings. The purpose of these regulations is to protect the safety and privacy of study participants (in this instance the judges, attorneys, and jurors). However, the Sixth Amendment right of criminal plaintiffs to a fair and impartial jury supersedes any NIJ regulations. To protect jurors' privacy in the event of these competing demands, the research team revised certain survey questions, following the pilot test phase, to eliminate questions that would provide a prima facie basis for an appeal (e.g., timing of opinion formation). They also stripped any identifying case information from the questionnaires and destroyed the hard copies after the data were entered into the database housed at the National Center for State Courts.
Sample: The sites were selected through convenience sampling. Site selection was based on several criteria. First, each site had to have a sufficiently high volume of felony jury trials to permit data collection within a reasonable period of time. Second, court personnel had to be willing to cooperate with data collection, including the court's agreement to adhere to privacy and confidentiality protocols. Finally, institutional characteristics were considered. Two sites were included because of reported concerns about hung jury rates (Los Angeles and Washington, DC). Arizona was chosen to examine the potential impact of an innovative procedure that permits judges to allow further evidence and arguments when a jury reports that it is deadlocked. Researchers approached the New York State Office of Court Administration for suggestions on high-volume courts in New York City, and they were helpful in securing the cooperation of the Bronx County Supreme Court.
A court clerk and/or judge completed the survey information used in Part 1 and collected the administrative records data used in Part 2. Self-enumerated survey questionnaires were administered to judges in Part 3, to attorneys in Part 4, and to jurors in Part 5.
Description of Variables: Part 1, Case Data, variables include the race and gender of victim(s) and defendant(s), size of panel from which the jury was selected, length of the voir dire process, who conducted the voir dire, reason a juror was struck, number of jurors struck by prosecution and by defendant, length of trial, number of prosecution witnesses, prosecution expert witnesses, prosecution exhibits, defense witnesses, defense expert witnesses, and defense exhibits, whether juror notebooks were provided, total number of questions submitted by jurors to witnesses, length of deliberation, number of deliberating jurors, and how the foreperson was selected. Variables for Part 2, Count Sheet Data, include case type, sentence, and total number of convictions, acquittals, and hung juries. Part 3, Judge Survey Data, variables include evaluation of the evidence, case complexity, attorney skill, likelihood that the jury would hang, reaction to the verdict, opinion regarding the hung jury rate in the jurisdiction, and experience on the bench. Part 4, Attorney Survey Data, variables include assessment of voir dire, case complexity, attorney skill, evaluation of the evidence, reaction to the verdict, opinions regarding the hung jury rate in the jurisdiction, and experience in legal practice. If the jury hung, attorneys also provided their views about why the jury was unable to reach a verdict. The age and gender of each attorney is also present in the file. Variables for Part 5, Juror Survey Data, include the complexity of the trial, whether all evidence was presented, and degree of ease with which the jury understood the evidence, experts, and judge's instructions. Other variables focused on the importance of police testimony, how believable the police, victims, and defendants were, the skill of the prosecutor and defense attorney, the strength of the prosecution's and defense's case, ease in deciding a verdict, whether the first vote or final vote was for a conviction, guilty verdict, or undecided, how influential the juror thought they were during deliberations, perception of other jury members, whether there was any conflict on the jury, level of satisfaction with the deliberations, past experience with being on a jury, and whether they were the foreperson. Demographic variables include race, age, gender, religious beliefs, highest level of education, job status, and income for each juror.
Response Rates: The response rate for Parts 1 and 2 was 89 percent. For Part 3, the response rate was 91 percent. The response rate for Part 4 was 69 percent for defense attorneys and 72 percent for prosecuting attorneys. The response rate for Part 5 was 80 percent.
Extent of Processing: ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:
- Standardized missing values.
- Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.
Original ICPSR Release: 2003-10-30
- 2006-03-30 File UG3689.ALL.PDF was removed from any previous datasets and flagged as a study-level file, so that it will accompany all downloads.
- 2006-03-30 File CQ3689.ALL.PDF was removed from any previous datasets and flagged as a study-level file, so that it will accompany all downloads.
- 2005-11-04 On 2005-03-14 new files were added to one or more datasets. These files included additional setup files as well as one or more of the following: SAS program, SAS transport, SPSS portable, and Stata system files. The metadata record was revised 2005-11-04 to reflect these additions.
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