M E M O
Joint Procedure Committee
Predeliberation Discussion by Jurors
The Committee has a request from Ronald McLean for Committee consideration of a rule allowing predeliberation discussion by jurors.
In 1995, as part of its reform to activate and empower the jury, Arizona adopted a rule allowing jurors to discuss the evidence during recess in the jury room when all the jurors are present. To prevent premature judgment, about the case, the jurors are instructed they must reserve judgment as to the outcome of the case until deliberation commences.
A number of potential advantages and disadvantages exist regarding predeliberation discussions:
1. Juror discussions about the evidence can improve juror comprehension by permitting jurors to sift through and mentally organize the evidence into a coherent picture over the course of the trial.
2. Juror discussions about the evidence may improve juror recollection of evidence and testimony by emphasizing and clarifying important points during the course of the trial.
3. Juror discussions about the evidence may increase juror satisfaction by permitting an outlet for jurors to express their impressions of the case before retiring for deliberations.
4. Juror discussions about the evidence may promote greater cohesion among the jurors, reducing the amount of time needed for deliberations.
5. Jurors find it difficult to adhere to admonitions about not discussing evidence. Permission to engage in such discussions bridges the gap between the court's admonitions and jurors' activities.
1. Juror discussions of the evidence facilitate or encourage the formation or expression of premature judgments about an evidentiary issue or the result of the case.
2. An aggressive, overpowering juror might dominate discussions and have undue influence on the views of others.
3. Allowing juror discussions prior to deliberations may detract from the ideal of the juror as a neutral decision maker.
4. The quality of deliberations may decline as jurors become more familiar with each other's views.
5. Sanctioned and structured discussions might produce a narrower and more confined set of final deliberations.
6. Juror stress might increase because of the conflicts produced by prior discussions.
Munsterman, G. Thomas, Hannaford, Paula & Whithead, G. Marc (Eds.), Jury Trial Innovations, 139-40 Williamsburg, VA; National Center for State Courts (1997).
As a matter of caution, the Arizona Supreme Court has limited predeliberation discussions to civil cases. In criminal cases, concern exists whether permitting juror discussion would deprive a defendant of the Sixth Amendment right to an impartial jury.
Should North Dakota adopt a rule similar to Arizona's rule allowing predeliberation discussion by the jury in civil cases?