Findings

Course of Justice

Kevin Lewis

May 18, 2012

The Impact of Jury Race in Criminal Trials

Shamena Anwar, Patrick Bayer & Randi Hjalmarsson
Quarterly Journal of Economics, May 2012, Pages 1017-1055

Abstract:
This article examines the impact of jury racial composition on trial outcomes using a data set of felony trials in Florida between 2000 and 2010. We use a research design that exploits day-to-day variation in the composition of the jury pool to isolate quasi-random variation in the composition of the seated jury, finding evidence that (i) juries formed from all-white jury pools convict black defendants significantly (16 percentage points) more often than white defendants, and (ii) this gap in conviction rates is entirely eliminated when the jury pool includes at least one black member. The impact of jury race is much greater than what a simple correlation of the race of the seated jury and conviction rates would suggest. These findings imply that the application of justice is highly uneven and raise obvious concerns about the fairness of trials in jurisdictions with a small proportion of blacks in the jury pool.

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Costs and Benefits of Eyewitness Identification Reform: Psychological Science and Public Policy

Steven Clark
Perspectives on Psychological Science, May 2012, Pages 238-259

Abstract:
Psychological science has come to play an increasingly important role in the legal system by informing the court through expert testimony and by shaping public policy. In recent years, psychological research has driven a movement to reform the procedures that police use to obtain eyewitness identification evidence. This reform movement has been based in part on an argument suggesting that recommended procedures reduce the risk of false identifications with little or no reduction in the rate of correct identifications. A review of the empirical literature, however, challenges this no-cost view. With only one exception, changes in eyewitness identification procedures that reduce the risk of false identification of the innocent also reduce the likelihood of correct identification of the guilty. The implication that criminals may escape prosecution as a result of procedures implemented to protect the innocent makes policy decisions far more complicated than they would otherwise be under the no-cost view. These costs (correct identifications lost) and benefits (false identifications avoided) are discussed in terms of probative value and expected utility.

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Who's the Fairest in the Land? Analysis of Judge and Jury Death Penalty Decisions

Radha Iyengar
Journal of Law and Economics, August 2011, Pages 693-722

Abstract:
The fairness of the application of the death penalty has come under question in recent years, amid the growing number of minority death row inmates. In this study, the Supreme Court decision Ring v. Arizona, which changed the death penalty sentencing phase in 13 states, is used to identify the different case and defendant characteristics that affect the decision to apply the death penalty. Using data that link homicide incidents to defendant trial outcomes in states with the death penalty, estimates suggest that juries both are more likely to apply the death penalty than judges and are more influenced by the age and race of the victim and the offender. These results raise concerns over the recent shift from judicial- to jury-based sentencing in capital cases.

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The Decision to Search: Is Race or Ethnicity Important?

Seth Fallik & Kenneth Novak
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, May 2012, Pages 146-165

Abstract:
This manuscript examines police officer decision making during automobile stops to determine whether Black and Hispanic drivers are searched at parity with nonminorities, with particular focus on officers' legal authority to search and controlling for other explanatory factors. Using data collected by a large Midwestern police department, we observe Blacks are overrepresented among searches overall and among searches involving greater officer discretion to search. However, neither race nor ethnic effects were observed after introducing other explanatory variables into multivariate models, suggesting factors other than minority status provide greater understanding of officers' decision making. Results indicate minorities are differentially involved in searches because police engage minorities under characteristics consistent with searches. This suggests that it is the social context of the stop, rather than the race or ethnicity of the driver, that primarily influences searches.

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Measuring the Prevalence of Questionable Research Practices With Incentives for Truth Telling

Leslie John, George Loewenstein & Drazen Prelec
Psychological Science, May 2012, Pages 524-532

Abstract:
Cases of clear scientific misconduct have received significant media attention recently, but less flagrantly questionable research practices may be more prevalent and, ultimately, more damaging to the academic enterprise. Using an anonymous elicitation format supplemented by incentives for honest reporting, we surveyed over 2,000 psychologists about their involvement in questionable research practices. The impact of truth-telling incentives on self-admissions of questionable research practices was positive, and this impact was greater for practices that respondents judged to be less defensible. Combining three different estimation methods, we found that the percentage of respondents who have engaged in questionable practices was surprisingly high. This finding suggests that some questionable practices may constitute the prevailing research norm.

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Cognitive Bias: Interracial Homicide in New Orleans, 1921-1945

Jeffrey Adler
Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Summer 2012, Pages 43-61

Abstract:
White killers of African Americans in New Orleans between 1921 and 1945, nearly half of whom were policemen, insisted that they acted in self-defense, only after their victims had threatened them, often by reaching for weapons. But many of their victims were unarmed. The conventional interpretation is that white residents invoked a formulaic justification of self-defense to mask their real intention, to uphold the city's racial hierarchy. Recent studies by cognition researchers, however, suggest a more complicated interpretation - that endemic racism can influence how the brain processes information, even to the extent of causing people to see a weapon where none exists.

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Behind the Veil of Juror Decision Making: Testing the Effects of Muslim Veils and Defendant Race in the Courtroom

Evelyn Maeder, Julie Dempsey & Joanna Pozzulo
Criminal Justice and Behavior, May 2012, Pages 666-678

Abstract:
Recent case law has considered whether a Muslim woman who wishes to appear in court should be allowed to testify wearing a veil that covers part of her face (e.g., Muhammad v. Paruk, 2008, in the United States, R. v. N.S., 2009, in Canada). The current research sought to test the influence of a victim's wearing of a veil while testifying on juror decision making in a sexual assault trial. In addition, the study tested for effects of defendant race using Middle Eastern and Caucasian as the target races, given that there is a paucity of research comparing these races in the juror decision-making literature. Results demonstrated that contrary to hypotheses, jurors were more convinced of the defendant's guilt when the victim was wearing a burqa or hijab to testify than when she testified wearing no veil. Defendant race did not have an effect on any of the dependent variables in this research; however, mock juror gender was found to be influential. Potential reasons for these findings and directions for future research are discussed.

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‘But can you prove it?' - Examining the quality of innocent suspects' alibis

Elizabeth Olson & Steve Charman
Psychology, Crime & Law, May 2012, Pages 453-471

Abstract:
Despite an assumption in the legal system that innocent people can generate accurate alibis, little research has examined the process of alibi generation. The current study examined this process with respect to three theoretical reasons why innocent suspects may fail to generate convincing alibis: they may lack the necessary memory, generate mistaken alibis, and generate weak or uncorroborable alibis. Undergraduates (N=255) were asked to report four initial alibis - each for a different time - along with corroborating physical and person evidence. Participants attempted to corroborate that evidence before returning 48 hours later. Upon return, participants reported their investigated alibis for the same four time periods. Results indicated that, despite participants' willingness to generate initial alibis, a substantial proportion of these alibis (36%) were mistaken, requiring either a change in narrative or a change in corroborating evidence. The majority of investigated alibis relied on evidence that evaluators would consider weak. Distant-past alibis were more likely to be mistaken than near-past alibis. Results indicate that innocent alibi providers may find convincing alibis difficult to generate, and we explain these results within a quantity-accuracy trade-off framework.

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Role-Induced Bias in Court: An Experimental Analysis

Christoph Engel & Andreas Glöckner
Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, forthcoming

Abstract:
Criminal procedure is organized as a tournament with predefined roles. We show that assuming the role of a defense counsel or a prosecutor leads to role-induced bias even if participants are asked to predict a court ruling after they have ceased to act in that role and if they expect a substantial financial incentive for being accurate. The bias is not removed either if participants are instructed to predict the court ruling in preparation of plea bargaining. In line with parallel constraint satisfaction models for legal decision making, findings indicate that role-induced bias is driven by coherence effects, that is, systematic information distortions in support of the favored option. This is mainly achieved by downplaying the importance of conflicting evidence. These distortions seem to stabilize interpretations, and people do not correct for this bias. Implications for legal procedure are briefly discussed.

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Out of sight, out of mind: The presence of forensic evidence counts more than its absence

Anita Eerland et al.
Acta Psychologica, May 2012, Pages 96-100

Abstract:
Recent evidence suggests that decision makers in criminal procedures are susceptible to biases. We previously found support for the presence of a feature positive effect (FPE, i.e., people attach more meaning to present than to absent information) in legal-decision making. In this study, we tried to uncover the mechanisms behind the FPE. Taking a cue from the literature on situation models in language comprehension, we investigated whether a FPE manifests itself in the memorization and use of forensic evidence. Students read a case file about a fistfight as well as additional evidence. The forensic evidence was manipulated such that a FPE on guilt estimation and conviction rate could be assessed. While subjects read additional forensic evidence, their eye movements were recorded to explore the presence of FPE in online processing. Afterwards, subjects were asked to decide on the suspect's guilt. They had to recall all information they remembered from the case file and indicate which parts of information they considered relevant to this decision. The results provided evidence for the occurrence of FPE in memorization and use of information and can be explained by the theoretical construct of situation models.

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Behind closed doors: The effect of pretrial publicity on jury deliberations

Christine Ruva & Michelle LeVasseur
Psychology, Crime & Law, May 2012, Pages 431-452

Abstract:
Content analyses of 30 mock-jury deliberations were performed to explore whether pretrial publicity (PTP) affects the content of jury deliberations. The pattern of results suggests that PTP has a powerful effect on jury verdicts and that PTP exposure can influence the interpretation and discussion of trial evidence during deliberations. Jurors who were exposed to negative PTP (anti-defendant) were significantly more likely than their non-exposed counterparts to discuss ambiguous trial facts in a manner that supported the prosecution's case, but rarely discussed them in a manner that supported the defense's case. This study also found that PTP exposed jurors were either unwilling or unable to adhere to instructions admonishing them not to discuss PTP and rarely corrected jury members who mentioned PTP. Finally, this research provides insight into how PTP imparts its biasing effect on jury decision making.

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The effect of mortality salience on weapon bias

Kristopher Bradley & Shelia Kennison
International Journal of Intercultural Relations, May 2012, Pages 403-408

Abstract:
The research tested the hypothesis that those in life-threatening situations may accidentally fire upon an individual whose ethnicity differs from their own, because mortality salience (MS) increases negative bias toward outgroup members (Greenberg, Pyszczynski, & Solomon, 1986). In the experiment, 88 White participants completed the weapon bias task (Payne, 2001). Participants viewed pictures and judged whether the picture was a hand tool or weapon. Each picture is briefly preceded by either a White or Black face. Prior to the starting the task, participants either wrote a short essay describing the emotions that the thought of their own death arouses in them (i.e., MS condition) or their feelings toward an upcoming exam (i.e., control condition). The results showed that individuals in the MS condition made more errors on the task. Further, the increase in error rates was significantly larger for conditions in which Black versus White faces preceded hand tools.

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The Discretion to Search: A Multilevel Examination of Driver Demographics and Officer Characteristics

Rob Tillyer, Charles Klahm & Robin Engel
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, May 2012, Pages 184-205

Abstract:
Understanding police decision making has been a priority for policing scholars since the middle part of the 20th century. Recent emphasis has focused on examining the decision to search drivers and vehicles during pedestrian and traffic stops. The current study contributes to this body of literature by testing a series of hypotheses based on Skolnick's notion of "symbolic assailants" and Smith and Alpert's social conditioning model. Using data gathered from a large, Midwestern municipal jurisdiction over an 8-month period during 2005 and 2006, we estimate a series of hierarchical models to assess the relationship between discretionary searches and driver, vehicle, stop, and officer characteristics. Results indicate that specific driver groups including young, Black males are more likely to be searched for discretionary reasons. This relationship is further conditioned by officer assignment. Policy implications and suggestions for future research are also discussed.

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Interviewing behaviors in police investigators: A field study of a current US sample

Nadja Schreiber Compo, Amy Hyman Gregory & Ronald Fisher
Psychology, Crime & Law, April 2012, Pages 359-375

Abstract:
Considerable research shows that scientifically based interviewing techniques (e.g. the Cognitive Interview) increase the quality and quantity of witness recall compared to typical police interviewing guidelines. In an effort to improve witness evidence, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) recommended guidelines for conducting witness interviews that follow empirical research (Technical Working Group: Eyewitness Evidence, 1999). These guidelines were distributed to all police departments in the USA in 1999, along with a trainer's manual. The present study is the first to examine whether US police investigators adhere to these nationally published guidelines when interviewing witnesses and victims of crime. A sample of audiotaped real-world witness interviews from 26 South Florida investigators was analyzed. Results indicated that investigators rarely engage in recommended ‘positive' interviewing techniques (e.g. rapport building or context reinstatement) while using many ‘negative' techniques (e.g. interrupting the witness or using complex questions). Based on the data provided, it appears that national US recommendations on witness interviewing have not been translated into real-world interviewing practice by the investigators surveyed. Implications for interviewing policies are discussed.

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Controlling Other People's Children: Racialized Views of Delinquency and Whites' Punitive Attitudes toward Juvenile Offenders

Justin Pickett & Ted Chiricos
Criminology, forthcoming

Abstract:
The juvenile justice system was founded on, and until recently developed around, the idea that society should afford delinquents more leniency and rehabilitative care than adult criminals because of their lower levels of physical and cognitive development and, thus, diminished culpability for law violations and higher amenability to treatment. The past four decades, however, have witnessed a sustained movement to recriminalize delinquency through the enactment of policies that treat juvenile offenders more like their adult counterparts. Feld (1999a) and others have argued that this punitive turn in juvenile justice is in part a result of the racialization of delinquency and violent victimization in the post-Civil Rights era. This study provides the first test of the key assumption underlying this thesis, namely, that Whites' support for getting tough with juvenile offenders is in part tied to racialized views of youth crime. Drawing on data from a recent national survey, we examine the extent to which relative racial typifications about delinquency and victimization, as well as racial resentment, are associated with general punitiveness toward juvenile offenders as well as support for lower minimum ages of criminal justice jurisdiction. Regression results show that Whites who hold such typifications and those who are more racially resentful are both more likely to embrace punitive youth justice policies and favor transfers for younger offenders. The implications of the findings are discussed.

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Neurolaw: Differential brain activity for Black and White faces predicts damage awards in hypothetical employment discrimination cases

Harrison Korn, Micah Johnson & Marvin Chun
Social Neuroscience, July/August 2012, Pages 398-409

Abstract:
Currently, potential jurors' racial biases are measured by explicit questioning -- a poor measure because people often hide their views to adhere to social norms, and people have implicit views they are not consciously aware of. In this experiment, we investigated whether two alternative methods of measuring racial bias -- a standard Black/White, good/bad Implicit Association Test (IAT) and neural activity, measured by fMRI, in response to seeing faces of Black and White individuals -- could predict how much money subjects would award Black victims in hypothetical employment discrimination cases. IAT scores failed to predict how much money subjects awarded victims. However, in right inferior parietal lobule (BA 40) and in right superior/middle frontal gyrus (BA 9/10) -- which have both previously been implicated in measuring biases and implicit preferences -- the difference in neural activity between when subjects viewed Black faces paired with neutral adjectives and when subjects viewed White faces paired with neutral adjectives was positively correlated with the amount of money the subjects awarded victims. This suggests that brain activity measures racial bias with more practical validity, at least in this situation and with our sample size, than a common behavioral measure (the IAT).

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Predictors of Domestic Violence Prosecution in a State Court

Kristin Bechtel et al.
Victims & Offenders, Spring 2012, Pages 143-160

Abstract:
Successful prosecution of state-level domestic violence cases typically requires participation from the victim. However, given the unique factors associated with these cases, the assistance of a victim advocate may be beneficial in maintaining victim cooperation. This research examines 353 cases to determine if victim cooperation and case disposition could be predicted by victim advocacy, victim injuries, defendant's use of a weapon, and the presence of witnesses. Findings from logistic regression analysis suggest that victim assistance was significantly related to both victim cooperation and case disposition. Further, victim cooperation and the presence of witnesses significantly increased the likelihood of a conviction.

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Forensic age progression and the search for missing children

James Lampinen et al.
Psychology, Crime & Law, April 2012, Pages 405-415

Abstract:
One approach that has been used to help recover missing children is forensic age progression. In forensic age progression, outdated photographs of missing children are digitally aged to provide an estimate of the current appearance of the child. In two experiments participants studied pictures of children at age seven (outdated), pictures of children at age 12 (current), or pictures that were age progressed to age 12 (age progressed). They were then tested with pictures of the children at age 12. Memory for current pictures was superior to both outdated pictures and age progressed pictures. Memory for outdated pictures and age progressed pictures did not significantly differ. The results failed to demonstrate an advantage for age progressed pictures.

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Power in Numbers: The Effect of Target Set Size on Prospective Person Memory in an Analog Missing Child Scenario

James Michael Lampinen, Christopher Peters & Vicki Gier
Applied Cognitive Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Efforts to find missing or wanted individuals have been characterized as an example of event-based prospective memory called prospective person memory. We examined prospective person memory in the context of missing children. Participants studied 4 or 12 mock missing child posters. In Experiment 1, we equated total time per poster and found no difference between conditions in prospective person memory accuracy. In Experiment 2, we equated total time for all posters and found evidence of a decrease in prospective person memory accuracy in the 12-poster condition. In Experiment 3, we allowed free study and also found a decrease in prospective person memory accuracy. Across all three experiments, we also found evidence of a more liberal response bias in the 12-poster condition. Results are discussed in terms of both practical and theoretical implications.

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Racial, Ethnic, and Gender Differences in Perceptions of the Police: The Salience of Officer Race Within the Context of Racial Profiling

Joshua Cochran & Patricia Warren
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, May 2012, Pages 206-227

Abstract:
Prior research has consistently demonstrated the salience of minority status in understanding racial and ethnic differences in perceptions of the police. This research has overwhelmingly shown that Blacks and Latinos hold lower levels of trust and confidence in the police than do Whites and other racial minorities. The increased skepticism of the police expressed by minority citizens is commonly associated with racial profiling and documented racial disparities in police behavior. Although policing research has empirically demonstrated the influence of race on perceptions of the police, few studies have explored the relevance of officer race in shaping citizens' evaluations of police encounters. Using data from the BJS Police-Public Contact Survey, the purpose of this study is to examine whether racial variation in evaluations of police behavior is moderated by the race of the officer. The results suggest that officer race may be an important factor in shaping citizen perceptions of police stops, particularly when it comes to Black citizens. This finding is important as it provides some evidence that increasing the number of minority officers may be one viable option for improving citizen-officer relations.

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The Power of Diversion: Intermediate Sanctions and Sentencing Disparity under Presumptive Guidelines

Brian Johnson & Stephanie Dipietro
Criminology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Fiscal constraints and shifting political climates in corrections have recently led to a renewed interest in intermediate punishments. Despite their growing prevalence, though, relatively little empirical research has examined the judicial use of alternative sanctions as a sentencing option. By using 3 years of data from the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing (PCS), this study investigates little-researched questions regarding the use of sentencing alternatives among offenders and across contexts. Results indicate that male and minority offenders are the least likely to receive intermediate sanctions, both as a diversionary jail or prison sentence and as a substitute for probation. The probability of receiving an intermediate sanction also varies significantly across judges and court contexts and is related to county-level funding for these programs, among other factors. Findings are discussed as they relate to contemporary theoretical perspectives on the perceived suitability of intermediate punishments and on the unique role that offender agency plays in the sentencing of these cases. Directions for future research are discussed.


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