Trial watchers occasionally assert fast verdicts are more likely to be guilty ones. The idea has been expressed by small town newspapers and even sports reporters. At the same time, other news organizations and trial blogs assert exactly the opposite, that fast verdicts favor the defense, or that length of deliberation means the jurors are taking their roles seriously.

I can find no systematic evidence of either assertion. A fast verdict could indicate sympathy with the defense or an overwhelming recognition of guilt. Perhaps it just means one side outperformed the other in the courtroom.

Does the speed at which a verdict is delivered (measured as the length of time it takes the jury to deliberate) correlate to the verdict itself?

  • Even if this is the case, just a correlation between short trials and some verdict doesn't mean the short trial was the cause. It could easily be the other way around (ie: if someone is obviously guilty, then the trial doesn't need to be very long, but if they're obviously innocent, there probably won't be a trial at all). Jun 21 '12 at 15:19
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    @BrendanLong I think the question is about length of deliberation times rather than the length of the trial. Jun 21 '12 at 15:40
  • Yes, I do in fact mean deliberation times. I edited the question to make that clearer. Jun 21 '12 at 17:44

This paper (page 16,20) suggests guilty verdicts are returned faster than innocent verdicts for 12 person jury criminal trials from Oregon.

Guilty verdicts take less time than verdicts that declare the defendant not guilty. This is interesting and could be indicative of cases that are so clearly presented and evidenced so as to leave little doubt in the minds of jurors about the innocence or guilt of the defendant, thereby speeding up the decision-making process.

They found 6 person trials to have the opposite effect, but the p value was high for this and they cite small sample size and types of cases presented as potential reasons for this. 12 person jury trials were more likely to be serious crimes (rape, murder) than 6 person.

This is shown in the table below. A Hazard Ratio above 1 indicates a longer than average trial. Below 1 is a shorter than average trial.

Table 4

  • Would great to see data from other states / larger samples, but I suspect collection is rough. Jun 23 '12 at 4:50

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