Group Communication

Jury Deliberation

For this application of knowledge reflection, I chose a small group jury deliberation project that I did for a small group course.  In Communication and Public Relations fields, there are many times where a group environment will be the main environment for the work place.  Knowing small group roles, skills and tendencies will teach me knowledge that will be helpful in the field.  This jury deliberation required our group to know how successfully and efficiently sort through facts and work through the decision making process.  Our group also needed to know what group climate was and how to have positive group climate.  Individually, it required us to know our roles in a small group and the characteristics we possess when we are in a group.

Our group demonstrated the five step process in decision making for each person involved in the crime we were deliberating on.  The first step in the process is to identify and clarify the decision that needs to be made.  The very first thing we did as a group was read the trial as whole before looking at each individual suspect.  Then we read each question that needed to be answered for each subject so we knew exactly what we were supposed to decide on.  By reading these questions first, we clarified the decision at hand without going into the specifics of the case.  After clarifying the decision, our group moved on to the second step of decision making which is identifying possible options.  Our group did this step by going through each of the five suspects individually and looking at the possible sentences we could give them and whether or not we should try them as a juvenile or an adult.  Our group was provided with a list of sentences we could choose from for each suspect.  Before giving sentences we needed to understand exactly what each one was.  This helped give our group a base knowledge of our options so that we could easily go through each suspect and see if their crimes fit into one of the sentences.  The next step was to gather and process information.  The information that we need on this case was given to us beforehand so our group needed to process all the information that we had.  We did this by looking at each suspect and talking the scenario that happened.  The scenario was about five boys got into an argument and one boy ended up being murdered.  The information we had was background on each boy, background on the place where the crime took place, the witness’s testimony and other testimonies that were given in the trial.  For each boy, we talked through what happened from their point of view using all the information we were given.  We connected dots to help us sort through information.  For example, one boy said that all five boys were at the scene of the crime while another boy said there were only two.  Our information said that the boy claiming that all five men were at the scene was known for lying and had a bad record while the other boy was trusted and had a clean record.  Therefore we decided through the information given to believe the trusted boy.  One thing we did do that is important in the decision making process is that we did not jump into making a decision, which is the fourth step, while still processing the information.  We processed all of the information for each boy before giving each boy a sentence.  After processing all the information we then gave what we believed to be the most appropriate sentence to each suspect.  We did this by listening to what everyone subjected to sentence be and narrowed the decision down to two or three possible sentences.  Then our group presented arguments for or against each sentence in order to find the appropriate on.  We did this for each suspect.  We then completed the last step of decision making, evaluating the decision, by comparing what our verdict was to our first clarification of what decision has to be made.  Our group looked at what we decided the options were and made sure our verdict coincided with our options we laid out in the second step.  This allowed us to fully evaluate our decision and avoid confusion or contradictions.

Our group was able to make a confident decision due to our relatively positive climate.  The best qualities of a positive small group climate that our group had were equality and spontaneity.  First, we viewed everyone and every opinion as equal to others.  From my opinion that Micah killed Jimmy to Bryant’s idea that Mike accidently killed his best friend, all were viewed as equal and something worth discussing.  Also, I showed equality when I shot down my own assumption that Micah killed Jimmy due to not enough substantial evidence.  When I considered Bryant’s opinion I noted that it was not consistent with the evidence.  In the same way, my idea was not in agreement with the evidence and I was willing to exclude my opinion in the same why I did for Bryant’s.  Spontaneity also was crucial to keep a positive climate in our group.  While being organized is important, our group was spontaneous by switching topics every so often to keep conversation going.  Whenever our group came to road block that stopped us from progressing in discussion, a group member would switch to a different part of the case or ask something not related to the case at all to relieve some tension.  This helped us come back to the topic later with a different perspective.  With this new perspective, our climate was positive and we didn’t have a negative attitude toward the topic.  This allowed us to come to a better decision.

Knowing individual roles within a group is important when making a group decision.  Roles can help the group or distract the group.  There are three categories for group roles, task, maintenance and self-centered, and in each category there are several roles.  Throughout the jury deliberation, I noticed that I didn’t stick to one particular role.  As I watched myself I noticed I moved through all three categories, task, maintenance and self-centered, of small group roles.  At the beginning of the deliberation, I seemed to be the primary initiator.  To start discussion, I stated “let’s go off of the sheet,” implying that we should start with the first question that was given to us at the end of the packet and address each boy individually in the order that was in the packet.  In doing this, our group was able to keep organization throughout the deliberation.  When we were deciding on if each boy should be tried as an adult or a juvenile, I was the person that would introduce each person and start the discussion about that person.  Overall, my role as an initiator helped our group stay on task.  Another role that I found myself playing was opinion giver.  I wouldn’t classify this role as my primary role through the deliberation but a few times I gave my opinion as to what I thought was happening during the time of the murder or a different view of who might of killed Jimmy.  Specifically, at the beginning of deliberating what each boy should be charged with I stated “to me I think Micah was the one that committed the biggest crime.”  This statement was my opinion and I generated this opinion through the fact that Jason has covered up for Micah in the past and my gut told me that Micah did it.  Although my opinion didn’t affect the outcome of the verdict, it did cause the group to think more thoroughly about what happened and who we are going to believe. Without my opinion, we might have not come to the conclusion that we did and ultimately could have believed more of Mike’s testimony.

One role that I anticipated myself being, and wanted to be in, was an encourager.  There are plenty of times when I don’t want to hear myself anymore and let other people’s opinions come to the table.  With that, comes my willingness to accept and analyze that person’s opinion.  One opinion that was really clever was Bryant’s theory of Mike killing Jimmy on accident. Bryant said “I think Mike might have taken the knife from Jason because he stole that gun from the cop.”  At first I didn’t know what to think of this theory, but the more Bryant explained himself the more I liked his theory.  I did enjoy his theory and thought that it might be true but I pointed out that “also was never mentioned and is a complete assumption.”  While later, I stated “I like the theory, but I just don’t know if we can go off assumptions” signifying that I encourage his theory but ultimately it’s a little too farfetched.  Another example of my encouraging role was towards the end, the majority of the group preferred that Jason not serve life in prison, but Katie was hesitant on that decision.  I could see that she was still uncomfortable but said that she was okay with just 25 years of prison, therefore I stated “but make your case, come on let’s hear it.”  After that, we compromised to sentence Jason to 25 years to life in prison.

Our group successfully went through all five steps of the decision making process to come up with what we saw as the best decision.  I used my knowledge of group roles to help group climate and decision making.  Roles are important in the group and I demonstrated what I knew my natural characteristics were.

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