Pretrial Publicity and Juror DecisionMaking: Effects of Inadmissible Evidence and Coverage of Its Exclusion from Trial
Dario Rodriguez, Ph.D.
The courts have long been concerned that exposure to media coverage regarding a case making its way through the judicial process (i.e., pretrial publicity [PTP]) may influence jurors’ decisionmaking in court. Indeed, empirical research over the past two decades has shown that PTP can influence juror decisions. PTP often contains descriptions of evidence or factors that are ultimately deemed inadmissible at trial (e.g., confession evidence), but no research to date has examined what occurs when confessions are reported to the public but later deemed inadmissible. We examined these issues using a 2 (Interrogation Quality: High vs. Low) x3 (Exclusion: Technicality vs. Cause vs. Not Specified) +1 (No Confession PTP Control) +1 (No PTP Control) mock juror experiment. Undergraduate students were randomly assigned and read various forms of PTP. In a second session conducted two days later, participants read a trial transcript that omitted any mention of the critical evidence contained in some versions of the PTP. Participants evaluated the evidence and rendered a verdict. Participants who were exposed to PTP were not significantly more likely to find the defendant guilty than those who received no PTP. Among PTP conditions, when participants were not told the reason for the exclusion of the confession, they were more likely to convict the defendant. This may reflect a tendency of jurors to fail to disregard inadmissible evidence unless convinced of a rationale for its exclusion.
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Rhein, Rebecca, "Pretrial Publicity and Juror DecisionMaking: Effects of Inadmissible Evidence and Coverage of Its Exclusion from Trial" (2019). Honors Theses. 227.