Behavioral Sciences & the Law

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Volume 37 Issue 1 (January 2019), Pages 1-126

Will jurors correct for evidence interdependence in their verdicts? It depends (pages 78-89)

Abstract Throughout an investigation, pieces of evidence are likely to contaminate one another, yet at trial jurors are expected to treat pieces of evidence as if they are independent. Are jurors able to understand potential evidence contamination? The present study showed mock jurors a videotaped trial simulation. Participants were randomly assigned to hear testimony regarding one piece of evidence, two pieces of independent evidence, or two pieces of interdependent evidence. The study tested the hypothesis that jurors who hear evidence that is interdependent will be just as likely to find the defendant guilty as jurors who hear about two pieces of independent evidence. When an eyewitness's identification was the uncontaminated piece of evidence, our hypothesis was supported. However, when the confession was the uncontaminated piece of evidence, jurors seemed to understand that one piece of evidence had been influenced by another and adjusted their beliefs about the defendant's guilt accordingly. This study supports the conclusion that jurors can sometimes identify and correct for evidence contamination in their perceptions of a defendant's guilt. Implications for reform support are discussed.

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