Begging the Question: Juror Participation in Criminal Cases

Erica J. Boyce, OMNI Research and Training
Mary Dodge, University of Colorado - Denver

ABSTRACT
Over the last five years, the state of Colorado has reviewed the practice of jury trials and has recommended substantial reforms in the conduct of jurors. One of the most controversial recommendations was to permit juror questioning of witness during trial. Originally, this questioning occurred exclusively in civil cases. However, the Colorado Supreme Court and the State Court Administrators Office collaboratively implemented a pilot project that was designed to determine whether juror questioning in criminal trials denied the Constitutional right to a fair trial by an impartial jury.

This paper will discuss the results generated from an evaluation reviewing the impacts of juror questioning in criminal trials. Results will include a discussion of the utility of juror questioning and how the introduction of this process affected the overall trial experience. Data were collected from attorneys, judges and jurors in approximately 150 cases. Various examples of questions submitted by jurors and impressions of the process will also be presented.

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Updated 05/20/2006