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NCJ Number: 97645 Find in a Library
Title: On the Inefficacy of Limiting Instructions - When Jurors Use Prior Conviction Evidence to Decide on Guilt
Journal: Law and Human Behavior  Volume:9  Issue:1  Dated:(March 1985)  Pages:37-48
Author(s): R L Wissler; M J Saks
Date Published: 1985
Page Count: 12
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Judge's instructions on the use of a defendant's criminal record to impeach credibility as a witness and not to assess guilt was investigated in mock trial settings.
Abstract: The effect that a defendant's record has on mock jurors' assessments of credibility and guilt was tested in a 2 X 4 factorial design varying the case (murder or auto theft) and previous conviction (none, for the same crime, for a dissimilar crime, or for perjury). Subjects were 160 adults, randomly assigned to 1 of the 8 conditions. Subjects' ratings of the defendant's credibility did not vary as a function of prior record and were consistently the lowest relative to ratings given other witnesses. However, conviction rates did vary by prior record, with the highest conviction rate occurring when the prior conviction was the same as the present charge and the lowest conviction rate occurring when there had been no prior conviction. Defendants with a previous conviction for perjury or a dissimilar crime were convicted at an intermediate rate. It is concluded that the risk of prejudice to the defense under the existing policy is greater than the unrealized potential benefit to the prosecution, as people do not use prior-conviction evidence as the law intends despite the judge's limiting instructions. Included are 42 references. (Author abstract modified)
Index Term(s): Behavioral science research; Jury decisionmaking; Jury instructions; Jury research; Verdict prediction; Witness credibility
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