6.1.8 – Factors influencing jury decision-making, including characteristics of the defendant and pre-trial publicity, including studies in this area.

Twelve adults serve on the jury for a criminal case. They must follow strict rules to ensure that the case is handled fairly. The judge relies on them to make the decision.

There are a number of factors which have been shown to affect jury decision-making.

Pre-Trial

Publicity

The way in which the case is portrayed in the media can affect the court process. This could lead to perceptions, which are hard to change after the fact, being formed about the defendant or other parties involved.

Steblay et al (1999) – Jurors exposed to negative pretrial publicit more likely to find defendant guilty.

Competence

Jurors are expected to understand technical legal information. This can affect the trial.
Foster Lee et al (1993) – Giving instructions to jury before, instead of after presenting them with technical information increased their ability to focus on relevant information to the trial. Instructions let them filter out irrelevent information and make sense of the evidence.
Leverett and Kovera (2003) – jururs find it difficult to know what scientific data is inaccurate.
Severance and Loftus (1982) – when the jurors are explained legal terminology, the tend to understand the ones they’ve heard before and not new ones.

During the Trial

Defendant characteristics

Race

White jurors in mock trials demonstrate negative bias to black defendants during sentence decisions.
More black defendents are found guilty than white.
court.
Pfeifer and Ogloff (1991) found that white university students were more likely to rate black defendants
as more guilty than white defendants.
Eberhardt et al – The more stereotypically black a defendant appears, the more likely they are to receive the death penalty.

Attractiveness

Generally the more attractive the defendent, the more likely they are to receive a non-guilty verdict. The one exception to this is crimes in which they may have used their good looks to their advantage, such as fraud, sees more attractive defendants more likely to be found guilty.
Michelini and Snodgrass (1980) – Attractive defendants were more likely to be acquitted.
Sigall and Ostrove (1975) – Attractiveness affected length of sentence which pp’s felt was appropriate. For crimes such as fraud, she was sentenced to longer when there was a picture, whereas burglary led to shorter sentences. Not generalisable to real trials because jurors don’t choose how long the sentence is.

Accent

Dixon and Mahoney – Birmingham accent seen as more guilty. Repeated and found same results.

Expert Witness Testimony

Despite warning jurors about inaccuracy of EWT, they tend to believe it anyway.
Cutler et al (1989) – use of simple language by the expert witness led to more guilty verdicts. Language can influence jury decision-making.

Story Models

The order in which the story is told can effect jury decision-making.
Pennington and Hastie (1990)  – Easy to understand order increases guilty verdicts.

Post-Trial

Conformity

When an individual gives up their personal views due to group pressure.
Normative conformity  – To avoid rejection by the group.
Informational conformity – They don’t know and look to the group for guidance.

Asch (1951) – Most influential group size to gain conformity was 7:1.

Minority Influence

One person or a small minority can influence the majority’s opinion.

Moscovici(1976) – If they’re consistent, committed to their opinions, acting on principle (not self-gain) and not unreasonable, they can influence the majority.

Social Loafing

Reduction in individual effort in a group task. Unmotivated individuals may leave the decision to the group,

Foreperson Influence

The person who is selected to deliver the verdict to the judge may influence the group as they are seen as a leader and therefore their opinion may be more valued.