Do Jurors Understand The Instructions In Canada?

Michelle Bertrand and Richard Jochelson (University of Winnipeg and Robson Hall, University of Manitoba Faculty of Law) have posted Mock-Jurors’ Self-Reported Understanding of Canadian Judicial Instructions (Is Not Very Good) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Studies of the criminal jury within a Canadian context remain few and far between compared to such research based in other jurisdictions especially the United States. The study of jury work in Canada is significantly curtailed for structural reasons, which we outline below. This makes the study of actual jurors who have served almost impossible in Canada so researchers must use alternative methods to study Canadian juridical issues.

The current study used a student sample to investigate comprehension of Canadian Judicial Council (CJC) pattern instructions. This is the first study to interrogate CJC pattern instructions in relatively common and uncomplicated crimes.

In this article, we discuss the barriers to jury research in Canada, consider some challenges facing jurors in comprehending legal concepts, and explore the development of pattern instructions in Canada. We then describe the results of our study, which revealed that a majority of participants self-reported a lack of comprehension in the pattern instructions provided and demonstrated a lack of understanding of foundational legal principles based on responses to other questions. This lack of comprehension has implications for policy development and for future studies in the area of juror comprehension.

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