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A third verdict option: Exploring the impact of the not proven verdict on mock juror decision making

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In most adversarial systems, jurors in criminal cases consider the binary verdict alternatives of "Guilty" and "Not guilty." However, in some circumstances and jurisdictions, a third verdict option is available: Not Proven. The Not Proven verdict essentially reflects the view that the defendant is indeed culpable, but that the prosecution has not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Like a Not Guilty verdict, the Not Proven verdict results in an acquittal. The main aim of the two studies reported here was to determine how, and under what circumstances, jurors opt to use the Not Proven verdict across different case types and when the strength of the evidence varies. In both studies, jurors were more likely to choose a Not Proven verdict over a Not Guilty verdict when the alternative was available. When evidence against the defendant was only moderately strong and a Not Proven verdict option was available (Study 2), there was also a significant reduction in the conviction rate. Results also showed that understanding of the Not Proven verdict was poor, highlighting inadequacies in the nature of judicial instructions relating to this verdict.
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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
A Third Verdict Option: Exploring the Impact of the Not Proven
Verdict on Mock Juror Decision Making
Lorraine Hope Æ Edith Greene Æ Amina Memon Æ
Melanie Gavisk Æ Kate Houston
Published online: 17 August 2007
American Psychology-Law Society/Division 41 of the American Psychological Association 2007
Abstract In most adversarial systems, jurors in criminal
cases consider the binary verdict alternatives of ‘Guilty’
and ‘Not guilty.’ However, in some circumstances and
jurisdictions, a third verdict option is available: Not Pro-
ven. The Not Proven verdict essentially reflects the view
that the defendant is indeed culpable, but that the prose-
cution has not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Like a Not Guilty verdict, the Not Proven verdict results in
an acquittal. The main aim of the two studies reported here
was to determine how, and under what circumstances,
jurors opt to use the Not Proven verdict across different
case types and when the strength of the evidence varies. In
both studies, jurors were more likely to choose a Not
Proven verdict over a Not Guilty verdict when the alter-
native was available. When evidence against the defendant
was only moderately strong and a Not Proven verdict
option was available (Study 2), there was also a significant
reduction in the conviction rate. Results also showed that
understanding of the Not Proven verdict was poor, high-
lighting inadequacies in the nature of judicial instructions
relating to this verdict.
Keywords Jury decision making Not proven verdict
Alternative verdict option
In most adversarial systems, jurors in criminal cases con-
sider the binary verdict alternatives of ‘Guilty’ and ‘Not
guilty.’ Typically, the prosecution will attempt to dem-
onstrate that the case against the defendant has been
‘proven’ beyond reasonable doubt (resulting in a Guilty
verdict) while the defense will argue that the case is ‘not
proven’ (resulting in a Not Guilty verdict). This simple
dichotomy has proved frustrating to juries, and jurors in a
number of high profile cases have expressed a preference
for an alternative verdict which more accurately reflects
their view that the defendant is indeed culpable, but that the
prosecution has not met the legal standards necessary to
convict (Barbato 2005).
There is at least one jurisdiction where an alternative
to the standard dichotomy is available to jurors. Under
Scottish law, three verdict options are presented to jurors.
Like jurors in criminal cases elsewhere, Scottish jurors
have the option to convict or to acquit by means of a
Guilty or Not Guilty verdict. But unique to the Scottish
system is a third option: jurors may also decide that the
Prosecution’s case has not been proven. The Not Proven
verdict is actually a vote for acquittal and has the same
legal effect as a Not Guilty verdict. In both instances, the
accused cannot be retried for the same offense. There is
a sense, however, that a verdict of Not Guilty should be
returned when the jury decides that the defendant defi-
nitely did not commit the offense with which he or she is
charged whereas a verdict of Not Proven is reserved for
situations in which there is doubt about the accused
person’s guilt, in essence, because the Prosecution has
L. Hope (&)
Department of Psychology, University of Portsmouth, King
Henry Building, King Henry I Street, Portsmouth PO1 2DY, UK
e-mail: lorraine.hope@port.ac.uk
E. Greene
School of Psychology, University of Colorado, Colorado
Springs, CO, USA
M. Gavisk
School of Law, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, CO,
USA
A. Memon K. Houston
School of Psychology, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK
123
Law Hum Behav (2008) 32:241–252
DOI 10.1007/s10979-007-9106-8
not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt (Connelly
1999).
This unique verdict option has been part of the Scottish
legal system for more than 300 years (Scottish Office
1994) and in recent decades, the Not Proven verdict has
typically accounted for between one-fifth (Scottish Office
Study 1994) and one-third (Duff 1999) of all acquittals by
Scottish juries. Recent Scottish court statistics indicate that
of all persons acquitted in 2004–2005, 19% had received a
Not Proven verdict (Scottish Executive 2006). However, it
should be noted that for acquittals in cases of homicide, the
Not Proven verdict rate was 71% whereas for less serious
crimes, the rate tended to be lower.
The Not Proven verdict option has also spawned signif-
icant controversy in Scotland. Debate was sparked by three
separate murder trials in the 1990s in which the jury re-
turned a verdict of Not Proven to the dismay of the victims’
relatives, and was fueled by a British Broadcasting Com-
pany (BBC) documentary entitled ‘Not Proven: That bas-
tard verdict’ (Duff 1996). These high profile murder cases
(and their controversial verdicts) launched a public debate
about the merits of the three-verdict system and families of
murder victims have campaigned vehemently to have the
Not Proven verdict option rescinded (Connelly 1999).
Despite some misgivings in Scotland and the possibility of
a review by the European Court of Human Rights for breaches
of ‘natural justice,’ the Not Proven verdict option has re-
cently been considered by other countries’ legal systems
(Macaskill 2005). For example, the Home Secretary sug-
gested that a Not Proven verdict may be introduced within
English courts (Barrett 2006). It would appear that the sug-
gestion has been made on the grounds that unsafe or wrongful
convictions (reached via a Guilty verdict) might be avoided
were a Not Proven verdict available to jurors. In other words,
the availability of a third verdict option might assist jurors who
would otherwise choose an inappropriate Guilty verdict,
thereby avoiding expensive compensation claims.
There have also been developments in the use of this
particular alternative verdict in the United States. For in-
stance, a ‘Not Proven’ verdict was issued during the
impeachment trial of President Clinton in 1999 by a
Pennsylvania senator on the grounds that prosecutors could
not meet the heavy burden of proof beyond a reasonable
doubt. The use of a Not Proven verdict was factored into
the decision in United States v. Merlino (2002), a case
stemming from a murder alleged to have been committed
by a Philadelphia Mafia boss when jurors were presented
with a Not Proven option on their verdict sheet. Debate
over the use of the Not Proven verdict within the U.S. legal
system has centered on whether that verdict option might
focus the jurors’ attention on weaknesses in the evidence
(McKenzie 1985). Given this possibility, it is unsurprising
that as far back as 1994, the American Bar Association
Journal reported that a number of criminal defense attor-
neys were keen to have a Not Proven verdict added to the
verdict form (Cassens and Curriden 1994). In California,
following the acquittal of O. J. Simpson, state senator
Quentin Kopp attempted to ‘revive legislation that would
allow juries a third option between ‘guilty’ and ‘not guilty’:
a middle ground called ‘not proven’’ (Ainsworth 1995).
This proposal was opposed by the American Civil Liberties
Union on the grounds that a new verdict option would be
confusing for both jurors and judges and that the verdict
itself fostered a perception of guilt (Barbato 2005). Ulti-
mately, the bill was defeated. A further bill providing for a
verdict of Not Proven was introduced in California in 2003
only to be defeated again. These recurring situations
illustrate that this third verdict option has had some
exposure and generated debate beyond the borders of its
native Scotland and suggest that it may be revived and
reconsidered by other entities in the future.
Unfortunately, this debate has occurred in the absence of
any real data on use of the three-verdict options and has
been based instead on anecdote, speculation, and precon-
ception. One purpose of the present research was to lend an
empirical perspective to this topic and to determine how,
and under what circumstances, jurors opt to use the Not
Proven verdict. In particular, we sought to examine whether
offering jurors a third option (of Not Proven) would result in
fewer convictions or fewer acquittals than would be found
in a two-verdict system. In theory, if the Not Proven verdict
really functions as an acquittal, then one would expect that
when jurors move from a two-verdict to a three-verdict
system (i.e., when they are offered three choices rather than
two), the number of guilty verdicts would remain the same
but the number of Not Guilty verdicts would be reduced as
some of the jurors who opted to acquit the defendant under a
two-option plan would now use the third Not Proven verdict
option instead. In particular, this would occur for cases in
the ‘gray area,’’ where the evidence is not so overwhelming
as to point directly to the accused person’s guilt, but neither
is it completely lacking (in which case an outright acquittal
should obviously result).
However, given that inconsistencies associated with
small changes in the decision context have been well-
documented in the decision making literature, there is a
distinct possibility that the verdict may not function in this
manner and that guilty verdicts may also be affected by the
addition of a third verdict option. For instance, in the
asymmetric dominance effect (otherwise known as the
attraction effect) adding an alternative option to an existing
choice set increases the proportion of alternative choices
from the original set. This phenomenon clearly violates the
principle of regularity embedded in many rational choice
models which predict that the likelihood of choosing one
option from an initial choice set cannot be altered by
242 Law Hum Behav (2008) 32:241–252
123
adding another alternative (e.g., Huber et al. 1982). This
type of decision-making inconsistency has been docu-
mented across a wide range of contexts including con-
sumer, employment, political, and partner choices (Doyle
et al. 1999; Highhouse 1996; Kim and Hasher 2005; Pan
et al. 1995; Sedikides et al. 1999). Adding an additional
verdict choice to the standard two-verdict choice may have
similar effects and impact on the selection of original
verdict such that one particular choice is made more
favorable by the addition of a third option.
Alternatively, and possibly more likely, the addition of
the Not Proven verdict may elicit a ‘compromise effect’
(Simonson 1989; Simonson and Tversky 1992; see also
Dhar et al. 2000; Kivetz et al. 2004). In essence, the
compromise effect refers to the phenomenon that an
alternative or third option is more likely to be selected
‘when it becomes a compromise or middle option in the
choice set’ (Simonson 1989, p. 159). It is quite possible
that the Not Proven verdict may be viewed as a ‘com-
promise’ verdict when the evidence is not sufficiently
compelling to warrant a guilty verdict but jurors remain
doubtful as to the innocence of the defendant.
There exist a few parallels to the two-verdict vs.
three-verdict situation that may be instructive. A fairly
common practice in the United States is the inclusion of
one or more ‘lesser’ charges in addition to the more
serious charge, and the resulting opportunity for jurors to
convict on one of those lesser charges (i.e., jurors in
these trials are offered more verdict options than a
simple conviction or acquittal). The effects of these
so-called ‘lesser included offenses on jurors’ decisions
have been examined in a handful of studies. In the first
investigation of this topic, Vidmar (1972) asked mock
jurors to read a description of an attempted robbery and
consequent murder of a store proprietor under one of
seven possible combinations of the following charges:
first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and man-
slaughter (there was also an option to acquit). Vidmar
hypothesized that if a defendant would generally be
perceived to be guilty of manslaughter or second-degree
murder in a situation where verdict choices were unre-
stricted (i.e., when all verdict options are available), that
same defendant would likely be acquitted as the guilt
alternatives become more severe (e.g., when first-degree
murder is the only option for conviction). Vidmar found
that when jurors were offered restricted decision alter-
natives, the probability of acquittal was positively related
to the severity of the least serious charge; the more
serious that charge, the higher the acquittal rate (the
‘severity-leniency’ effect).
Although there are other interpretations of Vidmar’s
data (e.g., Grofman 1985; Larntz 1975), subsequent studies
(e.g., Kaplan and Simon 1972; Kaplan and Krupa 1986)
have supported Vidmar’s general conclusions. In addition,
a more recent simulation study (Koch and Devine 1999)
showed that more guilty verdicts occurred in situations
where juries had the option to convict on the lesser charge
of voluntary manslaughter (in addition to the more serious
charge of murder), as opposed to only a murder option. In
this instance, adding a particular option increases the
likelihood of conviction (or changes the type of conviction
most likely to occur). In short, as predicted by the theo-
retical literature, the number and type of decision alterna-
tives affect the kind of decision that is made.
Studies on the effects of verdict alternatives in insanity
trials are also relevant to our concerns. American jurors
deciding cases in which the insanity defense has been
raised have typically been given three verdict options:
Guilty, Not Guilty, and Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity
(NGRI). However, during the 1970s, in response to con-
cerns that the number of insanity acquittals was unac-
ceptably high (and in order to provide treatment for some
mentally disordered inmates), some state legislatures de-
vised a fourth verdict option—Guilty But Mentally Ill, or
GBMI (Robey 1978). Since 1975, approximately 13 states
have adopted this provision (Borum and Fulero 1999).
What effect has the GBMI option verdict option had on
dispositions in insanity cases? Although proponents of this
legislation intended that it would decrease the number of
defendants found NGRI, the implementation of the GBMI
verdict did not significantly reduce the overall rate of
insanity acquittals (Borum and Fulero 1999). Rather, it ap-
pears that NGRI verdicts have remained relatively stable and
the number of guilty verdicts in insanity cases has dropped
(Blunt and Stock 1985). In states with the GBMI option,
some defendants who previously would have been found
guilty are now being adjudicated Guilty But Mentally Ill.
Based on this example, one wonders whether the third
verdict option available in Scottish criminal trials (and
perhaps in other venues as well) will have the intended
effect of serving as an acquittal based on lack of prose-
cution evidence. In other words, when the Not Proven
verdict is presented as a third choice, will the number of
Guilty verdicts remain the same as in the two verdict sit-
uation but the number of Not Guilty verdicts drop as pre-
dicted? If the insanity defense example is illustrative, it
may forewarn us that jurors do not necessarily adhere to a
rational choice model in their decision-making.
The main aim of the two studies reported here was to
determine how jurors use the Not Proven verdict across
different case types and when strength of evidence is
manipulated. We also sought to ascertain juror under-
standing of the Not Proven verdict option. The verdicts of
Not Guilty and Not Proven are appropriate in different
circumstances yet judges give scant instruction about how
jurors should differentiate between these two verdicts and
Law Hum Behav (2008) 32:241–252 243
123
when they should use each. Instead, judges tend to describe
the consequences of the verdict (i.e., both result in an
acquittal without further prosecution). Furthermore, jurors
tend not to ask what the Not Proven verdict means or under
what circumstances they can use it.
1
Where judges have
tried to provide more detail about the significance of the
two acquittal verdicts, an appeal based on judicial misdi-
rection has sometimes resulted (Duff 1996). The High
Court of Justiciary in Scotland has indicated that it is
dangerous to go beyond instructing jurors that there are two
alternative verdicts that result in acquittal (Macdonald v.
HM Advocate 1989). In the current studies, we used
instructions modeled on those supplied to actual jurors
regarding use of the Not Proven verdict. Thus, a secondary
goal of this study was to examine whether the judicial
instructions imparted the required knowledge to assist
jurors in understanding the implications of the verdict.
This paper presents two juror simulation studies that
manipulated the number of verdict options such that either
two (Guilty, Not Guilty) or three (Guilty, Not Guilty, Not
Proven) verdict options were available to mock jurors. In
both studies, participants read a summary of a criminal case
and received instructions on reasonable doubt and elements
of the crime (and, for jurors in the three verdict condition,
an additional judicial instruction on the effect of a Not
Proven verdict). Participants delivered an individual verdict
and answered a number of questions about the likelihood
that the defendant committed the crime, their confidence in
the verdict, the extent to which the evidence was sufficient
to support their verdict, and implications of the Not Proven
verdict. Study 1 examined the use of a third verdict option in
a sexual assault case. In Study 2, we used different trial
materials (a physical assault case) for purposes of general-
ization and also manipulated the strength of evidence to
examine whether the Not Proven verdict had a differential
effect depending of the probative value of the evidence.
Study 1
Governmental statistics suggest that use of the Not Proven
verdict varies by crime type (Scottish Executive 2006).
Whereas across all crime types, 18% of acquittals took the
form of a Not Proven verdict, use of the Not Proven verdict
reflected 25–35% of all acquittals in sexual assault cases.
Desirous of understanding the ways that jurors use the third
verdict option, we simulated a sexual assault case in Study
1. One explanation for increased reliance on the Not Pro-
ven verdict in cases of sexual assault is that the defense of
consent is often raised, making sexual assault difficult to
prove.
Method
Design and Participants
One hundred and four jury-eligible Scottish college stu-
dents (37 male, 67 female), aged 17–62 years
(M = 19.48 years, SD = 5.19) were tested individually in
non-interacting groups of 12–15 and were awarded course
credit for participation.
2
Participants were randomly as-
signed to one of two conditions: the three-verdict (3V)
condition allowed participants to reach one of three ver-
dicts (Guilty, Not Guilty or Not Proven) while in the two-
verdict (2V) condition only the two standard verdicts op-
tions (Guilty, Not Guilty) were available. Each session
lasted approximately 60 min.
Materials
Trial
The summarized trial was adapted from a trial transcript
concerning a charge of sexual assault (see Myers et al.
2003 for previous research using these materials). The
prosecution argued that subsequent to meeting in a bar, the
defendant followed the victim to her home, accessed her
home on false pretences, and then sexually assaulted her.
The defense suggested that the defendant and victim were
previously acquainted and engaged in consensual sexual
activity on the evening in question. Pursuing that version of
events, the defense contended that the victim was keen to
engage in a serious relationship with the defendant but the
defendant rejected her advances and, as a result, the victim
fabricated the allegation of sexual assault as a form of
revenge. Testimony for the prosecution was presented by
the victim, a witness who had been with the victim and
defendant in the bar, and a physician from the local hos-
pital who attended to the victim. The defendant testified
and was cross-examined.
3
Pilot work indicated that mock
jurors reading the trial understood the facts at issue in the
case and that roughly equivalent rates of Guilty and Not
Guilty verdicts were returned. Comprehensive judge’s
instructions modeled on actual instructions in such cases
were also presented. Within these instructions jurors were
1
Personal communication, Sheriff Nigel Morrison, 17 July 2003.
2
Although participants were required to indicate previous experience
as a juror, jury experience was not screened for in advance as it was
considered highly unlikely that any significant number had acted as
jurors in actual trials given the age profile of the sample and the
limited use of jury trial (less that 1% of all criminal trials) within the
local jurisdiction (Duff 1999).
3
This trial was chosen because it has not, to our knowledge, been
published in its entirety in a source likely to be accessed by the
current participant sample nor would details of a trial such as this
have been reported in the British media.
244 Law Hum Behav (2008) 32:241–252
123
informed that ‘‘an individual is guilty of sexual assault if he
or she engages in sexual conduct with another adult with-
out the consent of the other party and uses any degree of
physical force to engage in the victim’s compliance.’
Jurors were also reminded of the presumption of innocence
and of the reasonable doubt standard to be considered be-
fore reaching a verdict. In keeping with the local standards
of proof requirements, jurors were also reminded that
corroborative evidence was a requirement for conviction.
Additional instructions were provided to participants in
the 3V conditions concerning the use of the Not Proven
verdict. These instructions, which replicated those pro-
vided to actual jurors, were as follows: ‘There are three
verdicts open to you here in Scotland: Not Guilty, Not
Proven and Guilty. The practical effect of verdicts of Not
Guilty and Not Proven is the same. Both result in an
acquittal, and a defendant (also known as the accused)
acquitted of a charge cannot be prosecuted again on it.’ In
keeping with the experience of actual jurors in the local
jurisdiction, mock jurors were only required to decide
whether the defendant was guilty as charged (i.e., no sen-
tencing decisions were imposed). Mock jurors in the 2V
condition were also informed that a Not Guilty verdict
would result in an acquittal and, in line with instructions
provided to participants in the 3V condition, were also
informed that a defendant acquitted of a charge cannot be
re-prosecuted on the same charge. Mock jurors were not
informed of the available verdict options prior to reading
these instructions.
Procedure
Few details of the study were provided to mock jurors prior
to attendance. Participants were informed that the research
concerned ‘‘individual differences in decision-making’’ and
were instructed to work through the test materials without
conferring. Participants in both conditions read the same
trial summary. All participants were asked to imagine they
were sitting in court hearing the evidence presented to them
and were instructed to base their verdict only on the evi-
dence presented in the trial summary. They were instructed
to read the trial materials carefully in the order presented.
On completion of the trial booklet, mock jurors were re-
quired to indicate their verdict and degree of confidence
that they had reached the correct verdict (1 = Not at all
certain, 7 = Absolutely certain), estimate the percentage
likelihood that the defendant had committed the crime with
which he had been charged and supply a rationale for
reaching the verdict they did.
In the second part of the booklet, participants’ under-
standing of the Not Proven verdict was examined in all
conditions. Participants were required to rate their under-
standing of the verdict (1 = Do not understand; 7 = Fully
understand) and indicate what they believed the implica-
tions of a Not Proven verdict would be for the defendant
(prison sentence, re-trial, acquittal, monetary fine). A
‘Don’t Know’ option was also included. Participants were
then specifically asked whether the defendant could be re-
tried if new evidence came to light.
No time limits were imposed on the completion of these
tasks. On completion of the response booklet, all partici-
pants were fully debriefed.
Results and Discussion
The main aim of this study was to compare verdicts reached
by jurors who were allowed to choose a Not Proven verdict
with those reached by jurors in the standard two-verdict
condition. All statistical tests were performed with a preset
a = .05. Where homoscedasticity was an assumption of a
statistical test, Levene’s test for equality of variance was
assessed, and the assumption supported unless otherwise
noted. Effect sizes are reported as Cohen’s d and Cramer’s
/ where appropriate.
4
Analyses of verdict choice suggested
that the availability of a third verdict option had a signifi-
cant effect on the decisions reached by jurors (see Table 1).
Specifically, jurors in the 3V condition were less likely to
reach a Not Guilty verdict than were jurors in the 2V
condition (7% vs. 39%), v
2
(1, N = 104) = 16.10, p < .01,
/ ¼ :39:
As a Not Proven verdict has the same practical outcome
as a Not Guilty verdict, verdicts were recoded to reflect a
conviction or acquittal. The acquittal rate was 39% in the
2V condition and 49% in the 3V condition (including Not
Guilty and Not Proven responses), with a corresponding
conviction rate of 61 and 51%, respectively. This associ-
ation was not significant, v
2
(1, N = 104) = .97, / ¼ :10;
ns. Overall confidence in verdict did not differ between
experimental conditions, t(102) = –1.59, d = –.32, ns.
In terms of estimates that the defendant actually com-
mitted the crime, participants who reached a Not Guilty
verdict in the 3V condition returned estimates that were
roughly equivalent to those from jurors who reached a Not
Guilty verdict in the 2V condition (3V M = 42.50%; 2V
M = 42.35%). Mock jurors who opted for a Not Proven
verdict did not give significantly higher estimates of guilt
likelihood (M = 52.40%) than participants reaching a Not
Guilty verdict in either 3V or 2V condition. These data are
shown in Fig. 1.
4
Cohen (1988, 1992) prescribed the values for small, medium, and
large effect sizes for different significance tests. For independent t
tests, the values for small, medium, and large d are .20, .50, and .80
respectively. Cohen’s conventions for Cramer’s / (df = 1) are .10
(small), .30 (medium), and .50 (large).
Law Hum Behav (2008) 32:241–252 245
123
Verdict Understanding
We asked jurors to reflect on their understanding of the Not
Proven verdict option. Results suggested that general
awareness of the Not Proven verdict in this sample was
somewhat limited; 55% of participants in the 2V condition
indicated that they had not previously heard of the verdict.
Despite the brevity of the judge’s instructions regarding the
verdict, participants in the 3V condition rated their
understanding of the verdict significantly higher than those
in the 2V condition who received no information about the
Not Proven verdict, t(102) = –2.07, p < .05, d = –.41).
Seventy-seven percent of participants in the 3V condition
correctly understood that reaching a Not Proven verdict
would result in the acquittal of the defendant (whereas only
57% of 2V participants responded correctly). However,
over one-third (35%) of 3V participants mistakenly
believed that the accused could be retried for the same
offence at a later date. Thus, the judicial instructions
proved reasonably effective in representing the third ver-
dict as a functional acquittal, but our results also mirror the
findings of public surveys identifying misconceptions
about the implications of the verdict.
Verdict Rationale
When asked to indicate the main reason for selecting the
verdict they did, participants provided a number of
responses. Responses were categorized by two coders
(r = .84) and reflected a number of categories including
references to specific witnesses (e.g., doctor’s testimony)
or behavior of the victim (e.g., she let him walk her home).
For participants who reached a Guilty verdict, the evidence
provided by the doctor who examined the victim proved
most compelling (in the 2V condition, 59% gave this
response and in the 3V condition, 77% mentioned this
testimony). A key comparison was between participants
who reached a Not Guilty verdict in the 2V condition and
participants who reached a Not Proven verdict in the 3V
condition. Although both are essentially acquittal verdicts,
the current results suggest that when the Not Proven verdict
is available, mock jurors are more likely to opt for this
verdict. The most frequent response from participants who
opted for a Not Guilty verdict in the 2V condition was
‘Insufficient evidence’ (18%). However, in the 3V con-
dition, 80% of participants who reached a Not Proven
verdict identified ‘Insufficient evidence’ as the main rea-
son for choosing that particular verdict. There was a sig-
nificant association between verdict condition and
frequency of the ‘insufficient evidence’ verdict rationale,
v
2
(1, N = 104) = 11.36, p < .01, / ¼ :33:
Results of the current study clearly indicate a large shift
from use of the Not Guilty verdict to the functionally
equivalent Not Proven verdict when the latter is made
available. This pattern suggests that jurors who acquit using
the Not Guilty verdict when three verdict options are
available may be more convinced of the defendant’s inno-
cence than are jurors who opt for a Not Guilty verdict when
only two verdict options are available. Apparently, some
jurors in the latter group may suspect, but are not convinced,
that the defendant is guilty. This is just the situation in
which a Not Proven verdict would be appropriate.
Study 2 was conducted to further examine the circum-
stances in which jurors opt for the Not Proven verdict when
it is presented as an option. Theoretically, the addition of a
third verdict option should have the most effect in cases
where the strength of the evidence against the defendant is
only moderately strong and where jurors might otherwise
opt to acquit because the prosecutor failed to convince
them beyond a reasonable doubt of the defendant’s guilt. A
Not Proven alternative may seem attractive to these jurors.
On the other hand, when the evidence is weak and acquittal
is likely and when the evidence is strong and conviction is
likely, the Not Proven alternative may be less useful.
Table 1 Proportion of verdicts
(guilty, not guilty and not
proven) by experimental
conditions, Study 1
Guilty Not guilty Not proven
Prop. N Prop. N Prop. N
Two Verdict (2V) .61 27 .39 17
Three Verdict (3V) .51 31 .07 4 .42 25
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
2V 3V
Ex
p
erimental Conditions
% Likelihood that the Defendant
Committed Crime
Guilty
Not Guilty
Not Proven
Fig. 1 Percentage likelihood that the defendant committed the crime
by verdict condition, Study 1
246 Law Hum Behav (2008) 32:241–252
123
Study 2 also differed from the previous study in its case
facts. Whereas we began our efforts with a sexual assault
case to maximize the opportunity to observe jurors relying
on the Not Proven option, we used the facts of a physical
assault case in Study 2 for purposes of generalizability.
Study 2
Method
Design and Participants
One hundred and forty-two jury-eligible community
5
par-
ticipants (42 male, 100 female), aged 18–64 years
(M = 25.0 years, SD = 11.49) were tested individually in
groups of 4–8 members and were paid a cash honorarium
for their participation. A 3 (Strength of Evidence: Weak,
Moderate, Strong) · 2 (Verdict options: 3 verdicts, 2 ver-
dicts) between-subjects design was employed and partici-
pants were randomly assigned to one of six conditions. As
before, in the three-verdict (3V) conditions, participants
were allowed to reach one of three verdicts (Guilty, Not
Guilty or Not Proven) while in the two-verdict (2V) con-
dition only the two standard verdicts options (Guilty, Not
Guilty) were available. Strength of evidence was manipu-
lated so that the evidence presented against the defendant
within the trial was strong, moderate, or weak. Each
experimental session lasted approximately 80 min.
Materials
Trial
The trial summaries were developed from a trial transcript
concerning a physical assault (see Wilson et al. 1986 for
previous research using these materials). The trial con-
cerned an aggravated assault in which the prosecution at-
tempted to demonstrate that the defendant committed
assault when he threw a bottle in a crowded pub. The bottle
broke, striking the victim in the eye with flying glass. The
defense contended that the defendant did not assault the
alleged victim, that someone else threw the bottle and that
the case is one of mistaken identity. Direct testimonies
were presented as detailed summarized statements. A
summary of the cross-examination questions followed each
direct testimony. The prosecution presented testimony
from the victim, a witness to the incident, and a police
officer attending the scene. The defendant testified and was
cross-examined. Testimony is also presented by the
defendant’s girlfriend who was with him in the pub.
6
Extensive pilot testing (N = 75) was conducted to produce
three versions of the original trial that varied in the strength
of evidence against the defendant. Using a between sub-
jects design, pilot participants read the weak, moderate or
strong version of the trial summary and then rated the
strength of evidence against the defendant using a 7-point
scale (1 = Weak; 7 = Strong). Ratings were significantly
different between conditions (F(2, 70) = 13.40, p < .001)
and post-hoc testing indicated a significant difference
between each group (Weak M = 2.92; Moderate M = 3.96,
Strong M = 4.87). As before, a summary of the cross-
examination questions followed each direct testimony and
comprehensive judge’s instructions were provided.
Procedure
Participants were recruited in small groups and randomly
assigned to one of the six experimental conditions such that
all group members were in the same experimental condi-
tion (i.e., same evidence strength and verdict options). In
the first part of the study, the initial instructions, procedure
and response booklets were largely the same as in Study 1.
An additional question was included following the verdict
and confidence in verdict items to further evaluate verdict
rationales. As in Study 1, participants’ understanding of the
Not Proven verdict was also assessed. The Not Proven
questionnaire was extended to include participant ratings of
the extent to which a Not Proven verdict might be per-
ceived as a satisfactory outcome for various participants in
the legal process (i.e., victims of crime, innocent defen-
dants, guilty defendants, general public). Participants were
also asked whether they believed a defendant receiving a
Not Proven verdict would be disadvantaged in anyway
after the trial.
In the second part of the study, after the preliminary
response booklets had been completed by all group mem-
bers, the group was instructed to engage in deliberations for
at least 20 min and was given the following instructions:
‘You must now discuss the case as a group and, like
a real jury, reach a final group verdict. In the first
instance, you should aim to reach a unanimous ver-
dict (i.e., a verdict you all agree with). If this is not
possible, please record the verdict of the majority of
group members.’
5
The majority of the community based jury-eligible sample was
drawn from a database of local community volunteers held at the
University of Aberdeen. Additional participants were recruited by
contacting local groups and societies to request volunteers.
6
Again, this trial was chosen because it has not been published in its
entirety in a source likely to be accessed by the current participant
sample nor would details of a trial such as this have been reported in
the British media.
Law Hum Behav (2008) 32:241–252 247
123
There were 14 juries in the 2V conditions and 14 juries in
the 3V conditions. Jury groups were provided with a ver-
dict sheet on which they could record their verdict (2V vs.
3V in accordance with the relevant condition) and whether
or not the verdict had been reached unanimously. All dis-
cussions were audio recorded. On completion of the study,
all participants were fully debriefed.
Results and Discussion
As in Study 1, the main aim of this study was to compare
verdicts from jurors given an alternative verdict option
(Not Proven) with verdicts reached in the standard two-
verdict condition when the strength of evidence against the
defendant was weak, moderate or strong.
Again, the availability a third verdict option had an
impact on the decisions reached by jurors (see Table 2). In
the 3V condition there was a significant association
between verdict options and likelihood of reaching a Not
Guilty verdict; jurors in the 3V condition were less likely to
reach a Not Guilty verdict than were jurors in the 2V
condition (v
2
(1, N = 142) = 59.19, p < .001, / ¼ :65:
Only 5% of participants in the 3V condition reached a Not
Guilty verdict (compared to 65% in the 2V condition) and
76% opted for Not Proven verdicts.
All Not Proven and Not Guilty verdicts were recoded as
acquittals (and Guilty verdicts were recorded as convic-
tions). The conviction rate for mock jurors (irrespective of
evidence strength) was 35% in the 2V condition and, 22%
in the 3V condition. This association was marginally sig-
nificant, v
2
(1, 142) = 2.9, p = .06, / ¼ :10: We conducted
a hierarchical loglinear (HILOG) analysis to examine the
effects of verdict options (2V or 3V) and evidence strength
(weak, moderate, strong) on verdict outcome (conviction or
acquittal). The variables contributing to the final model
were evidence strength and verdict outcome, v
2
(6) = 9.52,
p = .15. Follow-up v
2
tests were conducted to examine the
interaction nested under these variables. For the weak
evidence condition, there was no association between
verdict options and verdict outcome, v
2
(1, 49) = 2.17,
p =.24,/ ¼ :21). Similarly, in the strong evidence con-
dition, there was no association between verdict options
and verdict outcome, v
2
(1, 52) = 0.41, p = .36, / ¼ :09).
However, for the moderate evidence condition, the con-
viction rate in the 2V condition was 33% whereas in the 3V
condition, the conviction rate was only 5% resulting in a
significant association between verdict option and verdict
outcome, v
2
(1, 41) = 5.24, p = .03, / ¼ :36:
Irrespective of choice of verdict, there was a main effect
of verdict option (but not evidence strength) on overall
confidence in verdict between experimental conditions
such that participants in the 3V condition indicated higher
confidence in their verdict choice (3V M = 5.33; 2V
M = 4.62, F(1,142) = 16.04, p < .001, g
p
2
= .11).
For estimates of percentage likelihood that the defen-
dant committed the crime, there was a main effect of
evidence strength in the predicted direction with the strong
evidence condition rated highest (F(2,142) = 24.56,
p < .001, g
p
2
= .27). There was no effect of verdict con-
dition or any interaction effect on rated likelihood that the
defendant committed the crime. In the 3V condition, 100%
of participants who reached a Not Proven verdict stated
that they had chosen this verdict due to insufficient
evidence to reach either of the other verdict alternatives.
In order to examine the nature of the verdict reached,
statements reflecting verdict certainty were examined.
Across all verdicts in all conditions, a majority of partici-
pants (61%) thought it likely that the defendant had com-
mitted the crime but they could not be certain whereas 28%
thought it likely the defendant had not committed the crime
but could not be certain. Ten percent of participants were
certain the defendant was guilty while only 1% of partic-
ipants were certain of his innocence. For participants
reaching a Not Proven verdict, 64% thought it likely the
defendant had committed the crime but could not be certain
although this decision rationale varied by evidence strength
(Weak: 55%; Moderate: 61%; Strong: 83%). By compari-
son, 58% of participants reaching a Not Guilty verdict in
Table 2 Proportion of individual juror verdicts (guilty, not guilty and not proven) by experimental conditions, Study 2
Evidence strength Guilty Not guilty Not proven
Prop. N Prop. N Prop. N
Two Verdict (2V)
Weak .08 2 .92 22
Moderate .33 7 .67 14
Strong .63 15 .37 9
Three Verdict (3V)
Weak .00 0 .08 2 .92 23
Moderate .05 1 .05 1 .90 18
Strong .54 15 .00 0 .46 13
248 Law Hum Behav (2008) 32:241–252
123
the 2V condition believed it likely that the defendant had
committed the crime and this certainty also varied by
condition, (Weak: 46%; Moderate: 64%; Strong: 78%).
There was no overall association between verdict options,
evidence strength, and choice of certainty statement.
Verdict Understanding
As in Study 1, general understanding of the Not Proven
verdict was somewhat lacking with only 50% of partici-
pants in the 2V condition reporting previous knowledge of
the verdict. Again, participants in the 3V condition
understood the Not Proven verdict better than participants
in the 2V condition, t(139) = –4.68, p < .001, d = –.79).
Seventy-eight percent of participants in the 3V condition
correctly understood that reaching a Not Proven verdict
would result in the acquittal of the defendant (whereas only
52% of 2V participants responded correctly). Similarly,
only 37% of 3V participants mistakenly believed that the
accused could be retried for the same offence at a later date
(compared to 87% of 2V participants).
For questions concerning perceptions of the Not Proven
verdict by various stakeholders in the legal system, ratings
of the extent to which the verdict would constitute a sat-
isfactory outcome for different parties were on a 7-point
scale (1 = Not at all satisfactory; 7 = Very satisfactory).
The mean perceived satisfaction ratings were 1.84 (SD =
1.21) for victims of crime, 2.92 (SD = 1.15) for the gen-
eral public, 3.71 (SD = 1.93) for innocent defendants and,
unsurprisingly, 6.44 (SD = .90) for guilty defendants.
There was no difference in responses between experi-
mental conditions.
Finally, 92% of participants believed that defendants
may be treated differently after receiving a Not Proven
verdict as opposed to a Not Guilty verdict despite the fact
that both verdicts result in an acquittal. All rationales
provided in support of this belief implicated a perceived
stigma associated with the Not Proven verdict e.g., Not
proven implies that the crime could have been committed
by the accused but insufficient evidence means it cannot be
proven so the accused could be getting away with it;’ A
not proven verdict indicates that they are thought guilty but
there is just not enough evidence to convict them—they
would therefore be treated differently to someone thought
to be completely innocent and exonerated;’ ‘The public
will still view the defendant with suspicion and an element
of guilt.’
Jury Group Verdicts
Given the relatively small number of jury groups (N = 28),
the main purpose of examining group data is to identify the
frequency of the Not Proven verdicts at the jury group
level, rather than to conduct statistical analyses. The jury
verdicts mirror individual level decisions in that when a
Not Proven verdict was available it was preferred to a Not
Guilty verdict. Whereas the Not Guilty verdict represented
79% of jury group verdicts in the 2V condition only 7% of
juries selected a Not Guilty verdict in the 3V condition and
the remainder (64% of 3V juries) selected a Not Proven
verdict. ‘Lack of evidence’ was cited by all juries as the
rationale underpinning the final choice of Not Proven
verdict.
Not surprisingly, the likelihood of a hung jury was re-
duced when a third verdict option was presented. Unani-
mous verdicts were reached by only 50% of juries in the
2V condition but by 71% of juries in the 3V condition. The
content of deliberations for both 2V jury groups reaching a
Not Guilty verdict and 3V jury groups reaching a Not
Proven verdict was thematically similar and tended to
focus on lack of evidence as a precursor to either verdict.
General Discussion
The aim of the current research was to examine empirically
the use of the Not Proven verdict option and determine how
jurors use this third verdict alternative. To our knowledge,
no previous experimental examination of this verdict has
been conducted despite the fact that approximately 7,500
individuals processed through the criminal justice system
in Scotland in the past 5 years have received such a verdict
and the Not Proven option is being considered by other
jurisdictions. Although the verdict functions as an acquittal
and has no formal sanctions associated with it, one might
argue that for a truly innocent defendant, a Not Proven
verdict may appear to imply guilt in the absence of com-
pelling evidence or corroboration or, at the very least, be
considered a ‘second class’ acquittal (Duff 1996).
In both studies we observed a large shift from use of the
Not Guilty verdict (in the two-verdict condition) to the Not
Proven verdict when the latter was an available option (in
the three-verdict condition). Furthermore, in Study 2, we
observed a significant drop in the conviction rate in the
moderate evidence condition when the Not Proven verdict
alternative was available. In other words, when the case
against the defendant was only moderately strong (as
opposed to weak or very strong), participants were more
inclined to opt for a Not Proven verdict as opposed to
Guilty verdict. However, in the weak and strong evidence
conditions, the availability of the Not Proven verdict had
no effect on the conviction rate and, as in Study 1, simply
reduced the selection of Not Guilty verdicts.
This finding demonstrates interesting decision-making
inconsistency: Jurors are not adhering to a rational choice
model that would predict that if defendants could be
Law Hum Behav (2008) 32:241–252 249
123
considered guilty when one set of verdict choices is available
they should also be considered guilty when an expanded set
of verdict choices is available (i.e., no further information
has been made available to render the defendant ‘less
guilty’). As predicted, the availability of the Not Proven
verdict results in the type of decision making inconsistency
documented in a wide range of other applied contexts (e.g.,
Doyle et al. 1999; Highhouse 1996; Kim and Hasher 2005;
Sedikides et al. 1999). These data are also consistent with
the use of the NGRI verdict alternative in the United States
(recall the drop in convictions, rather than acquittals, when
an ‘intermediate’ verdict option was provided).
On the other hand, as a drop in conviction rates was
observed in only one condition (i.e., moderate evidence
condition of Study 2), it could be argued that a Not Proven
verdict actually promotes more accurate juror decisions.
Instead of being frustrated by the standard binary dichot-
omy, jurors with only moderately strong evidence against
the defendant were able to reach a verdict that reflected
their view that the defendant may have been guilty but that
there was insufficient evidence to convict. An examination
of the rationales for choice of verdict indicated that the
majority of participants who chose both a Not Guilty ver-
dict and a Not Proven verdict did so because they believed
there was insufficient evidence to convict. These data raise
the possibility that jurors may not be particularly discrim-
inating in their use of the Not Proven verdict in situations
where a Not Guilty verdict might be a better alternative. In
other words, the Not Proven verdict may become the
default verdict; it may simply be easier and more expedi-
tious for jurors to reason that the prosecution’s case was
not proven than to assess whether they had a reasonable
doubt about the defendant’s guilt, in which case they
should acquit outright.
In this way, our results fit well with results from re-
search on the ‘compromise effect’ in decision making
whereby a compromise alternative is more likely to be
selected from a three-option set (e.g., Simonson 1989).
This effect has been explained as a type of ‘extremeness
aversion’’ whereby decision makers view extreme values or
options as less attractive (Chernev 2004; Simonson and
Tversky 1992). In the current studies, the availability of
‘Not Proven verdict certainly reduced selection of
the relatively unambiguous Not Guilty verdict and, in
particular circumstances, the similarly unequivocal (or
‘extreme’’) Guilty verdict.
The availability of a Not Proven verdict could also have
implications for jury group decisions in that it may function
as a compromise or middle course between juror group
members. Study 2 presents some preliminary findings on
this issue. As we had a relatively small jury group sample,
we are cautious in reaching firm conclusions but it would
appear that a typical leniency effect promoting a Not
Guilty bias (cf. MacCoun and Kerr 1988) was present in
the 2V condition, but not in the 3V condition. There was,
instead, a high rate of Not Proven verdicts (64%) in the 3V
condition. These results suggest that the Not Proven verdict
may be used as a ‘compromise.’ Clearly, further research
is needed to clarify the precise nature of that compromise
and any associated social decision schemes.
This apparent ‘default’ use of the Not Proven verdict
may reflect the inadequacy of the judge’s instructions
concerning use and implications of the Not Proven verdict.
In the current studies, we provided jurors with the verbatim
instructions likely to be used in court, yet their under-
standing of the Not Proven verdict was relatively poor. The
most serious conceptual error was the assumption that the
defendant may be retried should more evidence come to
light. This result mirrors results of the BBC public opinion
poll (1993) which also reported that a sizeable portion
(59%) of the Scottish public was misinformed about how
the Not Proven verdict works. The finding, more than
20 years later, that potential jurors are displaying similar
misconceptions represents a clear challenge for the Courts
and legislators to correct.
Our data also suggest that ‘default’ use of the Not
Proven verdict is problematic at a societal level. Although
the nature of an acquittal (Not Guilty or Not Proven) may
not be legally important, our results suggest that a Not
Proven verdict is viewed as a ‘second-class’ acquittal and
a large majority of participants indicated that they believed
a defendant in receipt of a Not Proven verdict would
encounter stigma (in the form of continued suspicion) as a
consequence of the verdict. This perception is unsurprising
given the controversial nature of the verdict. On one hand,
Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights
(ECHR) and the Sixth Amendment to the United States
Constitution guarantee the right of citizens to a fair trial but
it could be argued that the ‘presumption of innocence’ is
removed when a Not Proven verdict is delivered. On the
other hand, the Not Proven verdict may put the government
at a disadvantage because it gives the accused two chances
of being acquitted but only one of being convicted. To this
end, a review of the Not Proven verdict by the European
Court of Human Rights is underway to assess the extent to
which the verdict breaches rules of ‘natural justice’ and is
fair to both the government and defendants.
There are a number of limitations associated with the
current studies; one concerns disparity between the fre-
quent use of the Not Proven verdict in our studies and its
less frequent use among actual jurors in Scotland. There
are a number of possible explanations for this disparity.
First, as discussed earlier, statistics that describe the aver-
age use of the verdict mask its use across a broad range of
case types. The second explanation concerns the strength of
the evidence against the accused in the cases we used,
250 Law Hum Behav (2008) 32:241–252
123
particularly in Study 1. Whereas the average conviction
rate for charges brought before Scottish criminal courts is
89%, only approximately one half of jurors in the sexual
assault case opted to convict. In our first study, we pur-
posefully structured our materials so that there was ambi-
guity about the defendant’s actions, reasoning that the Not
Proven verdict would be chosen more often in cases in the
‘gray area’ when the evidence did not overwhelmingly
support either side. In doing so, we may have presented
cases that were more ambiguous than those typically
offered to juries and, as a result, increased the likelihood of
a Not Proven verdict. However, in Study 2, where strength
of evidence was manipulated, we obtained clearer insight
into the use of the Not Proven verdict under conditions of
varying evidence strength.
In terms of methodology, as with all laboratory-based
juror decision-making studies, our studies lack the external
validity associated with the actual experience of being a juror
(for a full discussion of this and associated limitations, see
Bornstein 1999; Studebaker et al. 2002). The methodology,
specifically the use of trial summaries, may also account to
some degree for the disparity in use of the Not Proven verdict
between our sample and the average use of the verdict by
actual jurors. However, unlike many studies, we did include
the opportunity to deliberate (Study 2) and we also used
actual Not Proven verdict instructions in keeping with the
local custom. Future research on this issue might consider the
use more ecologically valid trial simulations.
Although jurors in many cases have multiple options
for convicting defendants (e.g., first degree assault, sec-
ond degree assault), it is rare that they have multiple
options for acquitting. Acknowledging limitations in the
current studies, these data provide the first empirical
insights into juror decision-making in situations where a
Not Proven verdict option is provided. The availability of
this alternative verdict option clearly impacts the deci-
sion-making processes of jurors. Our final study also goes
some distance in identifying particular circumstances in
which a Not Proven verdict might be used at the expense
of a Guilty verdict, which has important implications for
the legal system.
Several ideas for future research are apparent. One might
examine the extent to which the Not Proven verdict option
is used as a tool of compromise between Guilty and Not
Guilty factions within a jury. In particular, it would be
beneficial to examine decision schemes for use of the ver-
dict under different evidentiary conditions. If jurors opt for
this choice as a compromise position, the incidence of hung
juries may be reduced.
7
It would also be useful to determine
how the Not Proven verdict option influences the nature of
the deliberation. In our second study, deliberations
appeared to ‘dry-up’ and discussions focused on lack of
evidence once the possibility of a Not Proven verdict was
raised by a jury member. It may be that the availability of a
Not Proven verdict promotes a verdict-driven deliberation
style whereby individual jurors take a position in relation to
their verdict preference and cite evidence in support of that
preference (in contrast to ‘evidence-driven’ deliberations
where jurors work from the evidence to a verdict (Hastie
et al. 1983). Thus, on one hand, the availability of the Not
Proven verdict option may serve to limit the number of hung
juries; on the other hand, it may also promote a less thor-
ough, and therefore less desirable, form of deliberation.
Perhaps the most obvious need for future research is related
to the apparent inadequacy of judicial instructions. There is
a clear need for revision of the way jurors are educated
about the use and implications of the Not Proven verdict and
about the conditions in which it is appropriate.
In conclusion, this first systematic examination of the
Not Proven verdict demonstrates some important features
of the verdict and conditions of its use. Drawing on the
decision making literature, we have been able to suggest
the likely phenomena underpinning its use. Our results also
suggest that, for an innocent defendant, a Not Proven
verdict is at best morally unsatisfactory and, at worst, may
incur social sanctions by virtue the of associated stigma.
Future research should focus on the experience of actual
defendants in receipt of the Not Proven verdict. Finally, a
lower conviction rate is unlikely to capture public support
in favor of amending the binary option favored in most
adversarial systems—although, of course, the third verdict
may be the most accurate verdict when the case against the
defendant is ‘not proven’ either way.
Acknowledgments We wish to thank Jane Anderson and Yvonne
Adams for their assistance in collecting, collating and coding the data
for Study 1. We also wish to thank the Editor and a number of
anonymous reviewers for their constructive, comprehensive and
thoughtful comments, which contributed significantly to the com-
pletion of our manuscript.
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... For instance, legal professionals often view the not proven verdict as representing an important legal principle: it directs jurors to focus on the 'proof' provided by the case evidence and not impressions of guilt (or otherwise) of the accused . However, politicians and activists commonly note that the not proven verdict is used disproportionately in murder and rape trials, and that Scotland has an even lower conviction rate for those crimes than England and Wales, implying that the not proven verdict may be a factor in this difference (Hope et al., 2008;Richardson & Gardiner, 2021;Scottish Government, 2019;Topping & Barr, 2020). The aim of this paper is to compare the current Scottish verdict system with a commonly proposed alternative (i.e. the Anglo-American system) and a reform that would be consistent with survey-based research into the views of Scottish legal professionals (i.e. a proven and not proven system; . ...
... This means that a not guilty verdict can be reserved for cases in which the jury believes the accused to be factually innocent. Opponents of the not proven verdict often note that it is used disproportionately in serious crimes such as homicide and rape (Hope et al., 2008;Richardson & Gardiner, 2021;Scottish Executive, 2006; Scot-until proven guilty. A verdict of 'not proven' rather than 'not guilty' may undermine the presumption of innocence, even after acquittal. ...
... A number of studies have empirically investigated the influence of a two-verdict system (guilty and not guilty) compared to a three-verdict system (guilty, not guilty and not proven) on trial outcomes (Curley, Murray, et al., 2021;Hope et al., 2008;Smithson et al., 2007). For example, Curley, Murray, et al. (2021) found that the availability of the not proven verdict decreased the number of guilty verdicts by 38.1% and not guilty verdicts by 74.4%. ...
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The current Scottish verdict system includes three verdicts: ‘guilty’, ‘not guilty’ and ‘not proven’. The Scottish Government are currently reviewing the utility of the not proven verdict. Proponents of the not proven verdict suggest that it directs jurors to their true role of determining whether the prosecution’s case has, or has not, been ‘proven’. Reformists suggest a move to a system similar to England and Wales, with only guilty and not guilty verdicts. However, legal professionals have indicated a preference for an alternative system of proven and not proven. The aim of the current study was to test the effects of a proven and not proven system on verdicts given, when compared to alternative verdict systems (specifically, the current Scottish and Anglo-American verdict systems). 227 mock jurors watched a staged murder trial, filmed in a real-life courtroom, with legal professionals questioning witnesses and a judge giving legal direction. Jurors were significantly more likely to convict in a guilty and not guilty verdict system than either a proven and not proven or a guilty, not guilty and not proven verdict system. Future research should replicate this study with a focus on the impact of the not proven verdict in sexual offences.
... Smithson, Deady and Gracik (2007) found in murder trials that the introduction of the not proven verdict decreased the number of not guilty verdicts given. Since Smithson et al.'s (2007) study, Hope, Greene, Memon, Gavisk, and Houston (2008) and Curley et al. (2019) have found similar results in sexual assault and murder trials, respectively. Further, there seems to be consensus in the literature that the not proven verdict decreases the number of not guilty verdicts given by jurors. ...
... This reasoning may, therefore, explain why the availability of the not proven verdict may reduce the number of not guilty verdicts jurors return. Further, research suggests that accused individuals who are given the not proven (over a not guilty) verdict are likely to face worse social sanctions in the community (Hope et al., 2008), highlighting the importance of testing the influence of the three-verdict system on not guilty verdict returns. ...
... Legal professionals may view legal standards such as beyond reasonable doubt as objective benchmarks, meaning that conviction frequencies should not be influenced by the number of acquittal verdicts that are available (one versus two; Hope et al., 2008;Jackson, 1998). However, there are a number of reasons that can be given for the findings of Ormston et al. (2019) (i.e., fewer guilty verdicts in a three-verdict system). ...
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The Scottish verdict of not proven represents a second acquittal verdict which is not legally defined. Existing research into the influence of the not proven verdict on jury decision making is modest. The main aim of the current study was therefore to investigate the influence of verdict systems (two vs three) on juror decision making. The effect of pre-trial bias and evidence anchors on juror judgements were also examined. One-hundred and twenty-eight mock jurors listened to two homicide vignettes and were asked to rate their belief of guilt of the accused and to give a verdict in both trials. The results suggest that pre-trial bias was a significant predictor of both verdict choice and belief of guilt, whereas evidence anchors were not a significant predictor of either. Finally, both guilty and not guilty verdicts were given with increased frequency in the two-verdict system when compared to the three-verdict system.
... Further, from a legal perspective, the Not Proven verdict has the same outcomes as the Not Guilty verdict (i.e., no custodial sentencing, the defendant is discharged and not subject to any sentence). 5 ...
... In addition, Hope et al. 5 demonstrated that irrespective of verdict or evidence weight, verdicts made in the three-verdict system allowed the mock jurors to feel more confident that they had reached the correct verdict than their binary verdict counterparts. Confidence does not always equal accuracy, however (Hall et al., 2007). ...
... Confidence does not always equal accuracy, however (Hall et al., 2007). Hope et al. 5 also found that the different verdict systems did not have a significant impact on the juror's perception of guilt surrounding the defendant. Bhatia 6 found that if a third response is available which supports one of the original responses but not the other, then the option supported by the additional third response will be the response most likely to be chosen. ...
Article
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The Scottish legal system is a unique jurisdiction, as jurors are able to give not proven verdicts in addition to the well-known Anglo-American verdicts (guilty and not guilty). The not proven verdict has never been legally defined, meaning that currently legal practitioners can only estimate why a not proven verdict has been given. The main aim of this study was to investigate if jurors violate the regularity principle, which is commonly incorporated in many rational choice models, by testing if the introduction of the not proven verdict has an impact on the outcomes given by jurors. In addition, this study aimed to test if the introduction of the not proven verdict has an impact upon how the not guilty verdict is perceived by jurors. In this study, 128 participants listened to two vignettes centred on homicide trials. Jurors could give one of two verdicts in one of the vignettes and one of three verdicts in the other vignette. The vignettes were counterbalanced in regard to how many verdicts could be given at the end of them. It was found that jurors in a three-verdict system were less likely to give a not guilty verdict in comparison to jurors in a two-verdict system, showing that jurors violate the regularity principle and that the not proven verdict may change how the not guilty verdict is perceived. The findings of this research have implications in relation to juror communication, article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights and juror rationality.
... For instance, Smithson, Deady, and Gracik (2007) found task difficulty to be the only variable that consistently forecasts not proven verdicts. In addition, Hope, Greene, Memon, Gavisk, and Houston (2008) focus on how the third verdict of not proven affects conviction rates (i.e. outcome analysis) when the strength of the evidence varies. ...
... It was found that in cases considered to have evidence of 'moderate' strength, the availability of the not proven verdict reduces conviction rates, and that if a not proven verdict is available, the number of not guilty verdicts is also reduced. The research by Smithson et al. (2007) and Hope et al. (2008) focuses on decision outcomes, however, and does not explore the cognitive processes that resulted in certain decisions being reached. To understand these outcomes better, more research is needed that investigates the processes behind them. ...
Article
This study aims to identify whether a model of juror decision-making (i.e. the threshold point model) that encompasses both rational and intuitive decision-making exists. A total of 60 participants were selected who are eligible for jury duty in Scotland. These individuals read nine vignettes and rated the evidence of each vignette separately by placing the evidence in either a guilty, a not guilty or a not proven (a verdict type specific to Scotland) counter. Participants were asked after being presented with each piece of information to state how likely they thought the suspect was of being guilty, on a scale from 1 to 100. The data are best described using a flexible model (i.e. a diffusion model) that allows for information integration. Future research should examine whether or not the diffusion model can explain cognitive fallacies, such as confirmation bias, that are commonly studied in decision science.
... The perceived absence of curative alternatives makes the acceptance of mental illness, PTSD, and related disorders as mitigating evidence difficult to support (Aprilakis, 2005). Alternatively, if jurors have an alternative beyond the typical "guilty" or "not guilty" verdicts, they will show a bias toward treatment (Hope, Greene, Memon, Gavisk, & Houston, 2008). ...
... Jurors were inclined to decide that treatment was preferable to incarceration or acquittal. These findings are in line with previous research that has shown including other verdict options beyond the dichotomous decision of guilty or not guilty results in fewer guilty verdicts (Hope et al., 2008). Note. ...
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Two studies examined mock juror verdicts for veterans with PTSD in the criminal justice system. Mock jurors demonstrated a leniency toward treatment bias for veterans with PTSD who committed a violent crime, compared to a nonviolent crime. This leniency toward treatment bias occurred only when alternative verdict options, beyond guilty or not guilty, were available. In fact, a guilt bias was demonstrated by mock jurors when the only verdict options were guilty or not guilty, and a bias toward treatment was demonstrated when curative alternative verdicts were available. Implications for efforts to address the growing national problem of veterans with PTSD in the criminal justice system are discussed.
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The unique Scottish legal system stands apart from the better-known Anglo-American legal system, with variations relating to jury size (15 vs. 12), the number of verdicts available (3 vs. 2) and majority size (simple majority vs. unanimous). At present, only a handful of investigations have explored the effects of the Scottish ‘not proven’ verdict on jurors, and only a single study has explored the combined impact of the unique elements of the Scottish legal system on juror and jury decision making. The current study is the first to investigate the views of Scottish legal professionals on the three-verdict system, 15-person jury and simple majority verdict system. The aim of the study is to inform public and political debate, involve legal stakeholders in policy changes and decision making and compare legal professionals’ views with findings from previously conducted juror studies. Seventy-eight legal professionals took part in an online survey which asked for ratings and open responses on their attitudes to the Scottish (a) three-verdict system, (b) 15-person jury and (c) simple majority system. The results highlighted strong positive attitudes towards the ‘not proven’ verdict (particularly in a binary-verdict system of proven and not proven), 15-person juries and both the simple and qualified majority verdict systems. There was minimal support for reform towards an Anglo-American system. Instead, the reforms preferred by the legal professionals would be to require a qualified majority of 12/15 jurors, and to use a binary-verdict system of proven and not proven.
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The possibility of measuring the success of the criminal justice system in distinguishing the guilty from the innocent is often dismissed as impossible or at least impractical. Here I claim to demonstrate that such epistemic measurement would only be difficult. All measurement consists of two steps, the acquisition of observations and their processing through a computational framework. The law has lacked both, but I have recently put forward a computational framework and here I set out how the necessary observations can be obtained. This completes the conceptual foundations necessary for the development of jurisprudence as a social science, for policymaking in the law that is rooted in rational concern for epistemic outcomes, and for us to fulfil the modern, trustworthy and democratic promise that our forebears found in Blackstone’s ratio.
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