Does introducing lay people in criminal courts affect judicial decisions?

Evidence from French reform

Arnaud Philippe


What is the effect of introducing jury members in criminal courts? While surveys regularly point out a demand by citizens for harsher punishment, the differences between surveys’ and real decisions’ conditions are large enough to cast a doubt on the results. The introduction of two jurors into a court composed of three professional judges in two French regions and for a subsample of crimes during sixteen months offers a good natural experiment. Difference-in-differences or triple-difference methods do not permit me to identify any major change in the probability of being convicted or in sentences given by a court including jurors. If some characteristics of the reform could partly explain those null results, they clearly go against the hypothesis of a major disagreement between professional judges and citizens when they have to make real decisions in criminal cases.


Courts; Sentencing; Crime; Judicial decision; Jury members;


Arnaud Philippe, « Do jurors and professional judges differ in their treatment of crime?: Evidence from French reform », TSE Working Paper, n° 17-763, février 2017.

Publié dans

International Review of Law and Economics, vol. 52, octobre 2017, p. 1–15