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Trials for the Jury

Cynthia Najdowski's Criminal Juries in the 21st Century increases awareness about a range of issues that impact juries' decision-making in criminal cases.

ALBANY, N.Y. (Aug. 22, 2018) – Much has changed in the two and a quarter centuries since the right to a jury trial was established in the United States, and a new book co-edited by the School of Criminal Justice’s Cynthia Najdowski examines the challenges facing juries today.

Criminal Juries in the 21st Century, published by Oxford University Press, explores societal shifts in attitudes that impact the composition of a criminal trial jury, technological advances that affect jurors’ decision making and the emotional and psychological impacts of serving on a jury.

Najdowski, an assistant professor whose research focuses on the use of psychological theory to understand criminal justice and legal issues, edited the volume with Margaret Stevenson, an associate professor at the University of Evansville.

Najdowski said she and Stevenson developed the book to illustrate how research can be used to enhance understanding of the criminal jury system and provide guidance for improving it. Other books have been written with the same goal but what sets Criminal Juries in the 21st Century apart is its focus on understudied contemporary issues.

“This volume offers a unique and broad view of criminal juries to increase awareness about a range of issues that impact jurors’ decision-making in criminal cases and, thus, are in need of theoretical, scientific, and legal attention,” Najdowski and Stevenson write in their introductory chapter.

UAlbany criminal justice Professor Cynthia Najdowski
Cynthia Najdowski

Chapters examine a wide array of hot topics, including implicit bias in juries; changing perception of police and courts; neuroscience and decision-making; and the psychology of surveillance evidence.

Contributors include academic experts in the fields of psychology, criminal justice and law. “Coordinating with so many people from different backgrounds and bringing their work together in a unified volume was a challenge, but we are so pleased with the results and extremely honored to have had the opportunity to collaborate with some of the best jury researchers in the country,” Najdowski said.

“Cynthia Najdowski and Margaret Stevenson have brought together an impressive set of new and established scholars to explore the key challenges facing 21st-century criminal juries,” wrote Edie Greene, a psychology professor at the University of Colorado and the co-author of a textbook on psychology and law. “From concerns about lingering racism and implicit bias to questions about the impact of cutting-edge technologies, this volume masterfully interweaves actual cases, social science research, and legal analysis.”

Brian L. Cutler of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology had similar praise for the book. “The editors brought together an all-star cast of scholars, including psychologists and law professors, to review the scientific and policy issues associated with classic research issues such as juror selection and bias as well as modern and emerging issues such as jury use of ubiquitous video recordings and neuroscience evidence,” he said. “Each chapter provides an in-depth review of the contemporary issues and research.”

Criminal Juries in the 21st Century will be released on Sept. 17 but is available now for pre-order from the publisher. Shipment on pre-ordered books began Aug. 20.

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