Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The impact of trial evidence on juror decision-making
by Shifton, Jeremy J., Ph.D., State University of New York at Albany, 2014, 186; 3667162
Abstract (Summary)

It is widely accepted that a confession is one of the most incriminating piece of evidence that can be presented in a criminal case (Kassin & Neumann, 1997). However, little prior research has examined the impact of situational characteristics (e.g., length of interrogation, how recently suspect has slept, etc.) of the interrogation and resulting confession. While police tactics and personal characteristics are known to impact perceptions of the resulting confession, little is known about how aspects of an interrogation might impact the perceptions of jurors. In three studies, this dissertation seeks to determine how mock jurors' perceptions of evidence strength are impacted by the inclusion of known risk factors for false confessions.

The first study uses an in-person, student sample to evaluate the impact of interrogation length, how recently the suspect slept, and how many interrogators questioned the suspect. The second study repeats the measures of the first study using an online sample of adults. Situational interrogation factors, specifically the length of the interrogation, were found to have a significant effect on perceived evidence strength and resulting trial verdict. A confession resulting from a lengthy (16 hour) interrogation was perceived to be significantly weaker than a confession resulting from a shorter (1 hour) interrogation. Overall, when situational interrogation factors were presented to mock jurors, the evidence was perceived to be weaker and less indicative of guilt, and respondents voted to convict the defendant significantly less often.

The final study varies the age of the defendant and the alleged crime committed along with the length of the interrogation to determine whether any or all of these factors impact perceptions of evidence strength. This third study finds that confessions offered by younger defendants are viewed as less strong than older defendants, and that this effect is magnified when there is a lengthy interrogation. Similarly, defendants accused of murder who faced a lengthy interrogation were less likely to be convicted than those accused of assault. The final chapter concludes with an overall discussion of the three studies and avenues for future research.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Redlich, Allison
Commitee: Acker, James, Bushway, Shawn, Kelly, Christopher
School: State University of New York at Albany
Department: Criminal Justice
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 76/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Criminology
Keywords: Confessions, Evidence strength, Jurors
Publication Number: 3667162
ISBN: 978-1-321-41063-1
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