Last summer, I had the privilege of observing several trials while interning at the Johnson County Attorney’s Office in Iowa City, Iowa. I watched the trials in their entirety and heard the same information that the jurors did. However, I was appalled by the verdicts rendered. I thought the appropriate verdicts were apparent to everyone, but I was wrong. I started thinking about reasons why the jurors rendered such verdicts. One of the ideas I came up with was that jurors did not pay attention to much of the testimony because they were bored with their passive role in the trials. I observed this boredom in the faces and actions of the jurors in every trial I watched. I thought that if these jurors were allowed to question witnesses, they would be more alert and they would understand more of the testimony. I started to research juror questions and found that jurors were more satisfied with their involvement, more alert, and less confused in trials that allowed them to question witnesses. Juror questions are being implemented in many jurisdictions currently. Also, a detailed history exists of juror participation in trials. Qualitative research suggests that juror questions are very useful. I am proposing a model of juror questions that not only solves the problems of confused, bored, and inattentive jurors, but also includes procedural safeguards to ensure the integrity of the adversary process.
Ingrid Spiegel, ’03 LaPorte, IN
Sponsor: Craig Allin