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Jurors' Responses to Unusual Inadmissible Evidence

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice and Behavior Volume: 36 Issue: 5 Dated: May 2009 Pages: 466-480
Kerri L. Pickel; Tanya J. Karam; Todd C. Warner
Date Published
May 2009
15 pages
This study investigated the possibility that unusual evidence items were more difficult to ignore than neutral items if ruled inadmissible.
In both experiments, jurors successfully ignored the inadmissible evidence if it was neutral. It was a different story, however, when the evidence was unusual; jurors were more likely to make judgments that favored conviction in the unusual-inadmissible than in the control condition, which indicated that the jurors used the critical evidence in reaching their decisions. In addition, the unusual-inadmissible judgments favored guilt more than the neutral-inadmissible judgments, showing that jurors found it harder to disregard inadmissible evidence if it was unusual rather than neutral. During a courtroom trial, witnesses sometimes inadvertently introduce inadmissible evidence while on the stand. In such cases, the judge may prefer to instruct the jurors to disregard this evidence. However, research indicates the jurors frequently do not disregard inadmissible evidence. Two experiments investigated jurors' ability to disregard unusual inadmissible evidence. Participants listened to an audio recording of a theft trial. Those in four experimental conditions heard critical testimony favoring the prosecution, which was ruled either admissible or inadmissible and which contained neutral details or details that were unusual in terms of semantic content (Experiment 1) or form (Experiment 2). Tables and references


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