Degree Name

MA (Master of Arts)


Criminal Justice and Criminology

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Marian H. Whitson

Committee Members

Larry S. Miller, John T. Whitehead


The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees individuals’ right to trial by an impartial jury. However, empirical research indicates that the jury system is flawed, especially regarding judicial sentencing instructions. More specifically, jurors frequently misunderstand or misinterpret State patterned instructions. On a more encouraging note, there is evidence that comprehension of jury instructions can be improved. Thus, this research assessed improvement in juror comprehension using revised sentencing instructions. For the current investigation, participants included 201 volunteers called for jury duty in Western Tennessee. Data were generated via a questionnaire, which allowed for the collection of information relating to participants’ understanding of the sentencing instructions. Findings suggest that comprehension is low when jurors are only exposed to instructions written by the State. Furthermore, when jurors were given a more detailed explanation of certain problematic terminology, comprehension significantly increased. Policy implications of this research and directions for future improvement are discussed.

Document Type

Thesis - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.