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8
Jul

juror groupthink, learning, listening & the system

The news about the acquittal of Casey Anthony, in her First Degree murder trial, is only a couple of days old and still the stories have legs like spiders weaving more sticky situations.

There will be questions and stories for days to come. I’d always thought that once Casey Anthony was sent to jail for the rest of her life, this story would fade away until it became a small memory in our minds.

The acquittal of Casey Anthony, completely unexpected by virtually everyone, including the media, is now a story with enormous interest.   Now that a complete acquittal has occurred, this story will drag on longer than necessary, because we need answers.

The media is all over every second of the story, and I can’t help but follow the news, tweets, and the stories that continue to come out.  That’s because, I am still in shock, I guess.

One recent story is Casey Anthony will have to appear before the glaring lens of the depo-cam in the law office of Morgan and Morgan!  This is in regards to the  civil case filed by Zenaida Gonzales, the person who was originally thought to be the real “Zanny the Nanny,” but was quickly cleared.  To have Casey Anthony in front of the camera for this civil deposition will be huge news, and certainly very interesting.

This Zenaida Gonzales has claimed she lost her good name, her job, her car, and was kicked out of her apartment because of being associated with the disappearance of Caylee.  I don’t have an opinion about this, though I am thankful for Morgan and Morgan for pursuing this case!

The video deposition is scheduled for July 19th; two days after Casey Anthony is released from jail.  The subpoena was delivered to Casey Anthony already.  It’s not clear to me if she can ignore this subpoena or not.  I wouldn’t think so, but one never knows!

The News of Late

The media is telling us, Casey Antony’s jail sentence will end July 17th, on a Sunday versus the original date, July 13th.  The additional four days were added by the Department of Corrections when it was discovered they miscalculated time served.

The costs of the prosecution of Casey Anthony are being calculated by the State Attorney’s Office; HLN reports the numbers could be in the area of $500,000.

Lighting struck a tall tree in the area where Caylee’s remains were found and the TV hosts were all over it, anxious for manic responses like, “It’s a sign, it’s a sign!  God has spoken!”

I don’t mean to belittle any of these kinds of divine intervention beliefs. But I’d be more apt to ask, “If God were to gesture to earthly beings, wouldn’t He want attention to focus on the millions of children suffering in Haiti, Africa, and even in the US, as children are going hungry on our very own soil?”

A darling Caylee, was brutally murdered in Orlando Florida, and the one charged with caring for her will soon be living “La Vida Loca.”  But, our justice system has spoken, though I believe justice got this one wrong.

The jurors are human beings like me and you.  Our world can be unfair; there is injustice everywhere and no where are there easy answers.  It is difficult to rationalize why.

The Jury System – Broken?

There was a dialog in the 1990’s about changing the jury system when the OJ Simpson jurors got it so wrong.  How to revamp the juror system would be a positive dialog to have.

Having regular human beings judge a complicated murder case, where a life is on the line, does not make sense to me.

They are to be the “Trier of Fact” and I believe in the jury system totally and completely, but times have changed.  Trials are sophisticated events.

Jurors are not lawyers, and we expect so much from them.  We expect them to deduce and reason like lawyers, but they are regular folks with regular lives and worries and issues.  They are not active participants in the process, they are passive listeners though we ask them to listen actively.

Active listening is very difficult when it is one-sided.  I am quite sure they  only really heard ten percent of the evidence.

Adults Learning and Listening

There is research into Adult Learning that tells us that human beings can only retain a minimal percentage of what is heard – the percentage is between 2% and 10%.

If you think back to the lectures in high school or college that you listened to – what did you learn, really?  How much of that lecture do you think you retained?

What Jose Baez did with the defense exhibits – using pictures of the evidence and pictures of witnesses, although it seemed really simple, was extremely effective as a learning tool for the jurors, in my opinion.  These exhibits were a sort of “job aid” for the jurors to use to help them frame the concepts of the case in their minds.

There’s a great deal of learning required of jurors during a trial.  But, helping jurors to learn is not the goal of our system of justice.

Courts do not present evidence or testimony from a learning/retention perspective.  But, it would behoove lawyers to use Adult Learning theories in the way they communicate to jurors.

Did Deliberation Occur?

It is being reported that some jurors originally voted for guilt but changed their minds.  Could the bond and the closeness that the jurors formed have anything to do with changing their minds?

I wonder if sequestration for such a long time is detrimental to individual thinking?

And, I wonder if the jurors cared more about each other than they did their duty?

You never can tell what kind of dynamic was at play – group dynamics can be confounding and it would take a strong person to stand alone in such an environment.

There’s that phenomenon called “Groupthink” that could have come into play in the relationship of the jurors as a group. Psychologist Irving Janis, coined the term and defined Groupthink.

I learned about the phenomenon of Gropthink in relation to group dynamics in the workplace, but it can be defined in every group situation.  Fortunately, it is not always present in every group.

Irving Janis defines Groupthink this way:

…occurs when a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of “mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment.”

Groups affected by groupthink ignore alternatives and tend to take irrational actions…

A group is especially vulnerable to groupthink when its members are similar in background, when the group is insulated from outside opinions, and when there are no clear rules for decision making.   Source:  Janis, Irving L.  (1972). Victims of Groupthink.

One of the jurors, reportedly, was going to miss a cruise if the jury did not come to a decision by a certain time.  Was this a popular juror in the crowd?  Did the jurors want to be sure to decide quickly to ensure the cruise went as planned?  Maybe.  But, I think Judge Perry would have stepped in to help that situation so the juror did not lose money.

I’m at a loss for answers, but I do realize it’s futile to expect answers as to why justice for Caylee was heinously denied.  Or was it?  Not according to Cheney Mason, Jose Baez, or Dorothy Sims.

This is our system and, like it or not, they will say it worked.

I disagree that the outcome was justice, but I respect it nonetheless and realize that common sense was not common here…

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