“Dynamite Charge”

In a majority of U.S. courts, particularly criminal courts, jury verdicts are required to be unanimous. Occasionally, however, juries are unable to reach a consensus. In such instances, judges will sometimes prompt juries to reach a decision by issuing an instruction that is often referred to as the “dynamite charge.” The dynamite charge stresses the importance of reaching a unanimous verdict and puts particular pressure on jurors who hold the minority opinion to reconsider their position. Researchers have begun to explore the effects of this controversial instruction.

During jury deliberations, jurors are expected to engage in a process of social influence. Ideally, juries are supposed to come to a unanimous decision by engaging in reasoned discussion designed to convince one another that a particular decision is ...

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