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States Don’t See ‘Vanishing Trials’

Posted May 8, 2007 7:48 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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State courts conduct about 149,000 jury trials each year, a number that calls into question reports that trials are vanishing on a widespread basis.

That’s the finding of a survey (PDF) of court practices that charted widespread jury reforms, spurred by efforts to update jury trial standards begun by Robert J. Grey Jr. during his presidency of the ABA in 2004-2005.

Practices vary widely, according to a National Law Journal summary of the findings. For example, voir dire typically takes 16 hours in Connecticut, where potential jurors are questioned individually, and only 30 minutes in South Carolina.

A press release lists other findings, including:

--In the majority of trials, jurors are permitted to take notes and receive written copies of instructions. In about one in seven trials, jurors are also allowed to submit written questions to witnesses. --Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia initiated some form of statewide jury improvement effort in the past 10 years, and more than half of local courts embarked on such efforts.

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