Pre-existing attitudes about the legal system: The thirteenth juror?

Larissa Angelique Schmersal, University of Texas at El Paso

Abstract

The idealized role of the jury is that of a neutral decision maker; however, the degree to which individual verdict preferences represent jurors’ pre-existing beliefs about the legal system, theories about issues important to the case at hand, and prior understanding of legal terms remains inadequately explained. The purpose of the current study was to examine the direct and indirect effects of pre-existing attitudes about the legal system upon verdict preferences. Participants were 463 undergraduate students from the University of Texas at El Paso. Consistent with the hypotheses, pre-existing attitudes about the legal system played a role in individual verdicts, both directly and indirectly. These findings suggest that developing a better understanding of the direct and indirect associations among prior beliefs, interpretations of the evidence, and verdict preferences will aid legal professionals in ensuring that all defendants receive a fair trial.^

Subject Area

Psychology, Experimental

Recommended Citation

Schmersal, Larissa Angelique, "Pre-existing attitudes about the legal system: The thirteenth juror?" (2009). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1465271.
http://digitalcommons.utep.edu/dissertations/AAI1465271

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