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This chapter uses experimental analysis to test the Feddersen and Pesendorfer (American Political Science Review 92(1):23–35, 1998) theoretical results regarding the Condorcet jury theorem. Under the assumption that jurors will vote strategically (rather than sincerely based on private information), Feddersen and Pesendorfer derive the surprising conclusion that a unanimity rule makes the conviction of innocent defendants more likely, as compared with majority rule voting. Previous experimental work largely supported these theoretical predictions regarding strategic individual behavior, but failed to find support for the conclusions about the relative merits of unanimity and majority rule procedures in terms of group decisions. We extend this literature with an experiment in which the cost of convicting an innocent defendant is specified to be more severe than the cost of acquitting a guilty defendant. This payoff asymmetry results in a higher threshold of reasonable doubt than the 0.5 level used in earlier studies. We find very little evidence of the strategic voting predicted by theory (even for our asymmetric payoff structure) and no difference between the use of unanimity and majority rules. Overall, it was very difficult for the juries in our experiment to achieve a conviction, and no incorrect convictions occurred. Our experimental results suggest that the standard risk neutrality assumption can lead to misleading conclusions. We argue that a high cost associated with convicting the innocent can interact with risk aversion to produce an even higher threshold of reasonable doubt than would result from risk neutrality, which tends to neutralize the negative effects of strategic voting under a unanimity rule.
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- An Experimental Study of Jury Voting Behavior
Lisa R. Anderson
Charles A. Holt
Katri K. Sieberg
Allison L. Oldham
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