In 2008 Len Lecci and Bryan Myers developed a new questionnaire called the Pretrial Juror Attitudes Questionnaire ("PJAQ") positing that the more prevalent Juror Bias Scale ("JBS") does not encompass all of the legal attitudes a potential juror may have and which may lead to guilty or not guilty verdict.
In order to develop their questionnaire the researchers arrived at twenty-nine items to be placed on the questionnaire. The items were divided into six factors: (1) conviction proneness such as “Criminals should be caught and convicted by any means necessary,” (2) system confidence such as “When it is the suspect’s word against the police officer’s I believe the police,” (3) cynicism toward the defense such as “Defense lawyers are too willing to defend individuals they know are guilty,” (4) social justice such as “Rich individuals are almost never convicted of their crimes,” (5) racial bias such as “Minority suspects are likely to be guilty, more often than not,” and (6) innate criminality such as “Once a criminal, always a criminal.”
The former three factors, namely conviction proneness, system confidence, and cynicism toward the defense, can be attributed to factors such reasonable doubt, system confidence, and probability of commission already taken into account by the JBS scale. The latter three factors are novel and do not have any counterparts in previous questionnaires and tools. Three studies have been conducted in order to determine the predicting power of the PJAQ.
In 2007,Sara Jane Mobley conducted a cross-sectional study in the central jury room of Dallas County’s Frank Crowley Criminal Courthouse in Texas. The researcher wanted to test whether litigators could use the PJAQ in order to determine pretrial bias during the voir dire process.
In developing her sample, she chose potential jurors showing up to court on the day of their jury service. The potential jurors that showed up for jury duty were selected from a list of registered voters in Dallas County. From the potential jurors that showed up, each was asked if they would volunteer or participate in order make the researcher’s sample truly random. The sample was composed of ninety-nine potential jurors. They were given a demographic survey along with the PJAQ. After filling in the questionnaire, the participants were given case summaries of three different cases. They participants were asked to render a verdict and answer questions about the verdict they rendered.
She found there was a difference difference between preconceived bias of majority and minority respondents. The knowledge based questions revealed that minority respondents mistrusted the legal system more than majority respondents. It was also found that minorities convicted wealthier individuals at a higher rate than the majority respondents.
The advantages of implementing the PJAQ include the following:
- production of more candid juror responses;
- decrease in the likelihood of jurors echoing others’ opinions rather than giving their own;
- the avoidance of embarrassing and psychologically upsetting the potential jurors with questions in open court;
- the opportunity for efficient, quick voir dire that can benefit judicial economy; and
- and removal of demographic data from juror information in an effort to end the stereotyping of potential jurors
Some disadvantage of implementing the PJAQ include the following:
- attorneys and judges losing the ability to see how jurors react in person and assess their body language and verbal responses;
- could allow lawyers another way around “Batson challenge” by giving an attorney with racial preferences the ability to use a neutral reason for challenging a juror
- the costs associated with drafting, copying, and distributing the questionnaires to all jurors; and
- it could result in a longer, less efficient process until all the kinks are worked out.