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Jury Decisions Versus Judges' Decisions

In American trials, the verdict is reached by either a judge or a jury, raising questions as to how these two fact finders reach their decisions and whether their decisions systematically differ. Most research has focused on the jury, though some key studies have compared the decisions of judges and juries. The available archival studies, case-specific judicial surveys, and experimental research reveal substantial similarities and a few differences.

Before a civil or criminal trial begins, the parties decide whether it will be a trial by jury or a trial by judge (“bench trial”). A bench trial occurs if both sides waive the right to a jury. Although rates vary across jurisdictions, approximately one third of felony trials and one in four civil trials in the United ...

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