Hillary A. Larkin
1) To determine whether extralegal biases impact jury deliberation.
2) To determine whether these extralegal biases impact final verdicts.
Relevant Background: The American legal system asserts that jury deliberation is based solely upon legal evidence such as eyewitness testimony, cross-examination, and admissible material provided through the lawyer (Shaw and Sholnick, 1995). However research suggests extralegal biases such as race, gender, attractiveness, and ethnicity tend to direct jurors in their quest for the truth. Extralegal biases are those that have prejudicial effects. They are extralegal in the sense that they are based on factors that are absolutely irrelevant to assessing the guilt of the defendant (MacCoun, 1990).
1) The race and gender of the defendant will impact jury deliberation.
2) The defendant's race and gender will impact a juries final verdict.
Participants. Participants were from a small Catholic Liberal Arts College in New Hampshire and were General Psychology students receiving class credit for their participation. The age of the students ranged from 17 to 22, except for two participants whose ages were 44 and 47. There were 36 participants in each condition, each having three males and three females.
Materials. The 36 participants (18 males, and 18 females) read one of four criminal transcripts that only differed by race and gender. In transcript one the defendant was a black female and in transcript two the defendant was a black male. In transcript three the defendant was a white female and in transcript four the defendant was a white male.
Procedure. A sign up sheet was placed outside the psychology department on the bulletin board. There were six different groups each having six slots for participants (three females and three males were requested for each group). Each participant needed to fill out a consent form when they entered the experiment, and after everyone had completed the form instructions for the experiment were read out loud to each group (the same each time). Each group was required to read one of four criminal transcripts and than deliberate about the case orally with the other memebers of the group. Finally, participants needed to fill out one questionnaire and then they were done. As each participant left they were handed a credit slip and a debriefing form.
Statisitical Analysis: A 2(participant gender) X 2(transcript gender) X 2(transcript race) multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was conducted for four demensions of jury deliberation (i.e., number of years in prison jurors sentenced the defendant, the jurors unfavorable/favorable view of the defendant (one through nine Likert), the number of times the jurors made reference to the defendants gender, and the number of times the jurors made reference to the content of the criminal act. A 2(participant gender) X2(transcript gender) X 2(transcript race) analysis of variance (ANOVA) was then conducted for each outcome measure separately.
Findings: There was a significant interaction between the gender of the defendant in the criminal transcript and the race of the defendant in the criminal transcript. Group one (those individuals reading a criminal transcript with a black female) and group four (those individuals reading a criminal transcript with a white male) tended to give the defendant a longer prison term and make more frequent reference to the content of the criminal offense, at least more so than groups two and three. Group two read a transcript with a black male and group three read a transcript with a white female.
Conclusions: Groups reading the transcripts with defendants that were either black females or white males may have given these defendants harsher prison terms because of a middle class violation of society. Instead of sentencing the black male to a long prison term, as they believed most of society would, they sentenced the white male to a longer term. Groups reading transcripts with defendants that were either black females or white males may have also made more frequent reference to the content of the criminal offense because of some preexisting bias. In their minds white males and black females were more likely to commit the offense of DWI (driving while intoxicated). The offense committed in each of the transcripts. If this study were to be conducted in the future a more diverse sample would be necessary, but more importantly the content of the criminal offense would need to be changed. The charge of DWI (driving while intoxicated) may be a serious offense to some but not to others. If the offense were changed and the same results were obtained, the significance of the study would increase.
MacCoun, R. (1990). The Emergence of Extralegal Bias During Jury Deliberation. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 17, 303-312.
Shaw, J. and Skolnick, P. (1995). Effects of Prohibitive and Informative Judicial Instruction on Jury Decisionmaking. Social Behavior and Personality, 23, 319-326.
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