Verdict spotting: Investigating the effects of juror bias, evidence anchors, and verdict system in jurors

Curley, Lee; Murray, Jennifer; MacLean, Rory; Munro, James; Lages, Martin; Frumkin, Lara; Laybourn, Phyllis and Brown, David (2021). Verdict spotting: Investigating the effects of juror bias, evidence anchors, and verdict system in jurors. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13218719.2021.1904450

Abstract

The unique Scottish ‘bastard verdict’ of not proven represents a second acquittal verdict which is, by design, not legally defined. Existing research into the influence of the not proven verdict on jury decision making is modest, despite the not proven verdict’s regular appearance in Scottish media and policy discussion. The main aim of the current study was therefore to investigate the influence of verdict categories on juror decision making. The effect of pre-trial bias and evidence anchors on juror judgements were also examined. One-hundred and twenty-eight mock jurors listened to two homicide vignettes and were asked to rate their perception of guilt of the accused throughout two trials and to give a verdict at the end of each trial. The results suggest that pre-trial bias significantly affected both the verdict that was given and the final belief of guilt score. Evidence anchor was not a significant predictor of verdict given or the final belief of guilt score. In relation to verdict system, both guilty and not guilty verdicts were given with increased frequency in the two-verdict system when compared to the three-verdict system.

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