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Clear Choices and Guesswork in Peremptory Challenges in Federal Criminal Trials

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Abstract:

The traditional practice of permitting lawyers to strike jurors by peremptory challenge is being subjected to new questioning in the USA. Previous studies of strikes have used simulations or questionnaires, raising doubt about their relevance in actual trials. In this paper we report on a study that uses actual trial data and a mathematical model to estimate the extent to which the lawyers' selections are clear choices on which all lawyers would agree or are guesswork involving essentially random choices. The results are that only a small proportion of the challenges are clear choices, a conclusion that is consistent with the findings of simulation studies.

Keywords: DIRICHLET-TRINOMIAL DISTRIBUTION; JURIES; PEREMPTORY CHALLENGES; PEREMPTORY STRIKES

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler, New York, USA 2: Columbia School of Public Health, New York, USA

Publication date: 1997-02-01

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