Factors affecting jury decision making


Pre-trial publicity

Pre- trial publicity refers to the information in the media about a trial before it begins. PTP may include facts about the crime and the suspect, including details about past offences, as well as comments and opinions. 

For individuals who will act as jurors in such trials, it means that they are not naive to the case. Especially in high profile cases, it is almost impossible for the jurors to have not seen any PTP 

This information ma not be accurate, so the juror may see this information and use their schema/ reconstructive memory to put on their own version of events, which would prevent a fair trial

Research into PTP

Thomas (2010) - In the Uk, they studied the fairness of juries, looking at high and low profile cases using a mock jury. It was found that jurors on high profile cases were 70% more likely to recall media coverage than standard cases (11%)

Steblay (1999)- Steblay found that pre-trial publicity affects jurors decisions about a defendant. Jurors exposed to pre-trial publicity were more likely to give a guilty verdict (59%) than those who did not (45%)

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Characteristics of the defendant

Research has shown that certain aspects of the defendant such as attractiveness, gender, and race influence jury verdicts.

Attractiveness - Thought that a more attractive defndant will be treated more leiniantly than an unatractive one, attractive people are seen as more friendly, intelligent and honest.

Research has shown that in general, attractive defendants are treated better than unattractive ones in gaining aqquital, lighter sentances and the sympathy of the jury.

Research - Castellow et. al. (1990) Demonstrates the effect of physical appearance on jury decision making, using a secretary and her male employer accused of sexual harrasment

Results: Attractive secretary and attractive employer - Guilty 71%

Attractive secretary and unnatractive employer - Guilty 83%

Unnatractive secretary and attractive employer - Guilty 41%

Unnatractive secretary and unnatractive employer - Guilty 69%

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Gender - Characteristics of the defendant

Research into how gender influences jurors decisions clearly suggests that male and female defendants are responded to differently. Pre-conceived notions of the traditional roles of males and females are a possible explanation for these findings. These findings may be that males are more likely to commit a crime as they are more violent. And that females are less likely to be charged

Thomas et. al. (2011) Aimed to investigate whetehr mock jurors decisions were affected by defendants gender in lock cases.

Participants appeared to judge male defendants slightly more harshly than the female defendants, with males getting 23% guilty of murder, and females getting 20%

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Race - Characteristics of the defendant

There is a higher proportion of ethnic minorities in prison (15%) compared to ethnic minorites 8% of the general UK population. 

There seems to be a stereotypical view that black men are more likely to commit a crime. Studies have found that white jurors are more likely to find a black defendant guilty for a crime than a white one. Black defendants also receive harsher sentances


Mitchell et. al. (2005) - Looked at 16 studies considering racial bias in sentancing and found that longer sentances were given out to the defendants of a different racial group from the participant/ group to juror.

Bradbury and williams (2013) - Found that black defendants are less likely to be convicted by juries composed mostly of black jurors. Jurors composed mostly of white jurors are more likley to convict black defendants. Juries conposing of mostly hispanic jurors are most likely to convict black defendant

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