The Vanishing Jury: An Examination of How District Attorneys Perceive Justice
Chavez, Jacqueline Suzanne
AdvisorHaynes, Stacy H.
CommitteeDunaway, R. George
Scholars have identified four primary types of justice: distributive, procedural, interpersonal, and informational. These four types of justice correspond, respectively, to the perceived fairness of one’s outcomes, to the perceived fairness of the procedures used to determine one’s outcomes, to the degree to which people are treated with politeness, dignity, and respect by decision makers, and to whether individuals receive complete, truthful, and timely explanations of procedures and decisions. A significant amount of research has examined how perceptions of justice affect individuals’ attitudes and behavior (Denver, 2011). For example, research has examined how district attorneys shape victims’ and offenders’ perceptions of justice (Patterson-Badali, Care, & Broeking, 2007). Less is known, however, about district attorneys’ own perceptions of justice. Understanding how district attorneys view justice gives us insight into their decisions they make. These decisions include how to dispose of cases, what charges to bring against defendants, what sentence to recommend, and even how victims should be treated throughout the court process. With respect to how cases are handled in the criminal justice system, jury trials are often considered the epitome of justice. Proponents of jury trials argue that limiting or abolishing jury trials would undermine the public’s faith in the criminal justice system (Roberts & Hough, 2011). Nevertheless, the court system has confirmed the existence of “the vanishing trial,” a term used to describe the steadily declining role of trials (civil and criminal) in the American legal system (Frampton, 2012). The current study examines the court and county factors that affect district attorney’s perceptions of four types of justice: distributive, procedural, interpersonal, and informational. This research was based on data from a telephone and email survey conducted by the Social Science Research Center at Mississippi State University and county data from the United States Census Bureau and the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR).