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Taking Notes Influences Jurors’ Verdicts

by Douglas Ankney

Research from the University of Liverpool published in PLOS ONE reveals the impact notetaking by jurors has on their ability to recall evidence and on their verdicts.

Participants in a study had their handwriting speed, short-term memory, working memory, and attention assessed. They then watched a video of a real murder trial, some of the participants taking notes.

Afterward they recalled as much trial information as possible and reached a verdict. The researchers found that jurors with faster handwriting speed, higher short-term memory capacity, and better sustained attention ability remembered a greater amount of critical trial evidence, which was achieved by writing down a greater amount of evidence during trial. These personal factors enabled them to better remember the evidence even though they did not have access to their notes during recall.

The researchers also found a correlation between the type of evidence recalled and the verdicts. Those who recalled more incriminating evidence were more likely to find the defendant guilty, while the opposite was true of those who recalled more exculpatory evidence.

Test leaderJoanna Lorek said, “In summary, our results suggest that the act of note taking plays a central role in enhancing jurors’ recall of trial information and this in turn influences the verdict they reach. Therefore, all jurors should be permitted to take notes during trials.”

The study does not state if any participants missed crucial trial evidence while their attention was focused on writing notes. 



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