Talking about a black man: The influence of defendant and character witness race on jurors' use of character evidence

Evelyn M. Maeder, Jennifer S. Hunt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations

Abstract

To determine whether anti-Black bias influences mock jurors' use of character evidence (i.e., information about a defendant's personality), this study manipulated the race (Black, White) of the defendant and character witness and the type of character evidence presented in a fictitious criminal trial. Two hundred six predominantly White participants read a trial transcript, then made verdicts and trial judgments. Results confirm previous findings that positive character evidence has a limited impact on jurors' judgments, but negative character evidence is misused to evaluate the defendant's guilt. However, participants were more influenced by character evidence that was inconsistent with racial stereotypes. Specifically, positive character evidence had a stronger effect for Black defendants, whereas negative rebuttal evidence had a stronger influence for White defendants. The race of the character witness did not affect judgments. Thus, defendant race may provide a framework that influences how mock jurors process character evidence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)608-620
Number of pages13
JournalBehavioral Sciences and the Law
Volume29
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law

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