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Knowing When the Camera Lies: Judicial Instructions Mitigate the Camera Perspective Bias

NCJ Number
Legal and Criminological Psychology Volume: 17 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2012 Pages: 123-135
Jennifer K. Elek; Lezlee J. Ware; Jennifer J. Ratcliff
Date Published
February 2012
13 pages
This study examined the effectiveness of judicial instructions in mitigating bias in individual juror verdicts due to the presentation of videotaped confessions introduced at trial in which the camera focused primarily on the suspect.
This study stemmed from previous research that found videotaped confession evidence elicits a harsher juror evaluation of a defendant when the camera recording the confession focused on the suspect. The findings of the current study confirmed its initial hypothesis, i.e., that mock jurors who received judicial instructions to correct for this bias of camera perspective would make more lenient judgments about the confessor's guilt than those who viewed a videotaped confession unattended by such judicial instructions. The judicial instructions were patterned after the "flexible correction model" (FCM). As one of the most prolific models of bias correction, jurors must be made aware that a bias exists and understand the direction and magnitude of the effect in order to adequately correct for its impact (Wegener & Patty, 1995, 1997). In the current study, those assigned to the judicial-instruction condition read the information about coercion as well as the FCM-based instructions about the bias associated with the camera perspective. Those in the non-instructional condition were not made aware of the bias inherent in a typical confession videotaped with a focus on the suspect. The finding of the impact of the judicial instructions, however, is tempered by the finding that the group receiving judicial instructions voted "not guilty" only when the staged videotaped confessions were false; for the two true confessions, the judicial instructions did not cause the jurors to waiver from their conviction that the confession was true. This suggests that judicial instructions only counter a bias that tends to ignore evidence of a false confession. 1 figure, 43 references, and appended verbatim judicial instructions