The Distinction Between Jury Experiments and Jury Testing

Trial law makes a distinction between improper jury experiments and a jury’s permissible “testing” of the evidence.

Trial law makes a distinction between improper jury experiments and a jury’s permissible “testing” of the evidence. Improper experiments are those conducted by jury members that have the effect of injecting new evidence into the case not presented by the parties. One well known instance of an improper experiment happened in Ohio vs. Widmer. The issue in that case was determining how long it took a body to dry. The jurors in the case took showers at home and then timed themselves as they air dried. This later became the basis for granting a new trial

A different result occurred in People v. Cook, a California appellate decision. In that case one of the jurors bought toy cars on a break and later used them during deliberations to reenact the accident at issue in the case. The court held in that case that “using plastic cars is not an experiment. That it is no different than drawing little pictures or using Post-It notes” to illustrate “this car’s here, that car’s there”. No improper conduct was thus found.

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