Leniency Bias

It is well established that if a verdict option is favored by a substantial (e.g., two-thirds) majority of jurors prior to deliberation, the jury is very likely to ultimately reach that verdict. A number of studies have suggested the following qualification to this simple rule—in criminal juries, pro-acquittal factions tend to be more influential than proconviction factions of comparable size. The net effect of this asymmetry is a tendency for juries to be more lenient than individual jurors, except for cases that produce a large majority of jurors for conviction. This tendency constitutes the leniency bias.

Evidence for the Leniency Bias

The initial and strongest evidence for this bias comes from a number of jury simulation studies. Robert MacCoun and Norbert Kerr meta-analytically combined the results of ...

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