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--------------- Print Magazine --------------
  May 2016
  April 2016
Longest Jury Deliberations

Longest mainland U.S. jury deliberation in a civil lawsuit

Okay, not counting U.S. territories that are six time zones away, the longest U.S. jury deliberation in a civil case took place in a 1992 California trial in which a woman and her son sued the City of Long Beach for preventing the opening of a chain of residential homes for Alzheimer's patients. The case had a long tail, taking eleven years to get to trial. The jury sat through six months of testimony and then holed up for four and a half months before reaching a verdict (of $22.5 million to mother and son).

Though there's no record of them requesting a refrigerator, the case had a few other quirks. One juror was eliminated after suggesting that the court's name be changed from the U.S. District Court to the "U.S. Dairy Court" because, as he told fellow jurors, "you guys are milking this thing to death".

Reportedly, jurors treated deliberations much as they might treat a day job a la Dilbert, often starting late and ending early. One juror made a fake sick call in order to attend the track with some other jurors. Reports emerged of jurors ordering extra-large lunches at tonier restaurants so they could take home doggy bags for dinner.

Add to that the reports of drinking on the job and weekends, and it almost sounds like fun. Nonetheless, one juror told the local paper that being on the jury was "just like being incarcerated".

Longest U.S. jury deliberation in a criminal trial

Good thing they weren't filming this for an episode of "Law & Order". Three former Oakland, California, police officers known as "the Riders" were charged with roughing up suspects, planting drugs, and-what else-a cover-up. The trial took seven months and included 84 witnesses. Jurors had to read a mountainous 122 pages of instructions on 35 counts. They took four months to reach a verdict on eight counts (not guilty) but couldn't reach a verdict on the other 27 counts. The result: partial mistrial.

How long does it take to deliberate over a celebrity defendant?

Four hours for O.J. Simpson, 30 hours for Phil Spector (his second trial), seven and a half days for Scott Peterson, nine days for Charles Menson, nine days for Robert Blake, and twenty days for the Menendez brothers (their second trial).

Can any one pinpoint why some juries take so long to deliberate?

Three professors had a go at this in their study, "Time to Deliberate: Factors Influencing the Duration of Jury Deliberation." Professors Brunell, Dave, and Morgan reached several conclusions about the length of jury trials-for example, that criminal guilty verdicts generally take less time than non-guilty verdicts, but that in civil trials, juries that rule against the defendant take longer than those that find for the defendant. The professors examined seven hypotheses. Can you guess which are true?

  1. A six-person jury will reach a decision more quickly than a twelve-person jury.
  2. The more complex the case, the longer the jury will deliberate.
  3. The more severe the charge against the defendant, the longer the jury will deliberate.
  4. Non-unanimous decisions will take longer than unanimous ones.
  5. Juries with members who have prior jury experience will tend to reach decisions more quickly than those comprising fewer experienced jurors.
  6. Gender composition of the jury does not have a significant impact on the length of jury deliberations.
  7. The more potential jurors who are excused before the trial starts, the longer the jury will take to reach a verdict.

    1. False 2 . True 3 . True 4 . True
    5 . True in criminal trials; false in civil trials. 6 . True 7 . True
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