The entrapment defense - Juror comprehension and decision making

Eugene Borgida, Roger Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Most American jurisdictions follow either a subjective or an objective approach to the entrapment defense. In order to test some of the differences between the two approaches, student jurors viewed a videotaped cocaine trial and were presented with either subjective test or objective test instructions. The admission of prior conviction evidence was also varied. The jurors deliberated, returned a verdict, and then completed a questionnaire that measured their understanding of the instructions and trial facts. Results show that, first, juror comprehension of the principal features of the objective test is very poor. It is suggested that an effort be made to simplify instructions describing the objective test. Should simplification not improve comprehension, it is argued that the judge, not the jury, should decide the entrapment defense when the objective test is used. Second, admission of a prior conviction has a significant impact on verdicts in the subjective test condition, but not in the objective test condition. This finding suggests that the subjective test instructions are effective in encouraging jurors to use prior convictions as evidence of guilt. The content of the objective test instruction may also account for part of the difference in impact. Jurors in the objective test condition were instructed not to take the defendant's predisposition into account, and a substantial minority of the jurors under-stood this aspect of the instruction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-40
Number of pages22
JournalLaw and Human Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1988


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