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Volume 16 Issue 2

Similarity Leniency in Mens Rea Determinations and the Mediating Role of Causal Attributions

Jay, A.C.V., Stone, C.B., Fondacaro, M.R., Yoon, J, Zuraw, K.

Jurors are tasked with determining if the defendant's alleged transgression is the result of the defendant's guilty mind or other mitigating situational factors. The extant research, though, suggests that jurors tend to err in making these mens rea judgments. Jurors may have particular difficulty in judging mens rea when the defendant is a different race than the juror (i.e., harsher treatment of cross-raced defendants and less harsh treatment of same raced defendants, what are known as similarity leniency effects; Mitchell et al., 2005). The present research examined jurors' mens rea judgments of cross-raced defendants, whether there is any relation between similarity leniency effects and implicit racial biases, and whether causal attributions (i.e., emphasizing dispositional vs. situational causal attributions) mediate the relation between juror race and cross-race judgments of a defendant’s mens rea (i.e., similarity leniency effects).

Perceived Credibility of Sexual Abuse Victims' Statements

Wilinsky, C.L., McCabe, A.

The present study identifies structural aspects of victimization stories told by adult survivors of child sexual abuse that indicate truth-telling to potential jurors and increase the stories' believability. Jury-eligible undergraduate students (n = 175) were asked to indicate how believable they found six different stories about prior victimization using the Narrative Believability Scale (NBS-12; Yale, 2013). Partial support was found for the hypothesis that stories that include an ending to the abuse will be more believable than stories that are unclear regarding how/if the abuse ended. The findings of the present study have implications for the ways in which victims speak in court, the questions attorneys ask, and the multifaceted nature of what makes a story believable.

Colorism and Criminality: The Effects of Skin Tone and Crime Type on Judgements of Guilt

Barideaux, K.Jr, Crossby, A., Crosby, D.

Previous research has provided evidence that darker-skinned Black individuals are usually associated with more negative stereotypes, and they often receive harsher sentences for committing a crime compared to their lighter-skinned Black and White counterparts. While this prior work suggests the presence of a skin tone bias within the criminal justice system, few experimental studies have accounted for the type of crime committed. In a 2 (skin tone: light-skinned Black, dark-skinned Black, or White skin) x 2 (crime committed: white-collar or blue-collar) design, the present study examined whether the skin tone of the perpetrator and type of crime committed influenced judgements of guilt and beliefs about the perpetrator's character. The results showed that a skin tone bias was present only when the perpetrator committed a blue-collar crime. Furthermore, participants believed that the light-skinned Black perpetrator appeared less dangerous, threatening, and violent, compared to the dark-skinned Black and White perpetrators. This study demonstrates how the effects of an interracial bias may partly depend on the type of crime committed.

Free Will Belief and the Impact on Perceptions of Procedural Justice

Stenkamp, A.M., Mark Fondacaro, M.

Advances in behavioral and neuroscientific research have the potential to fuel public doubt about the extent to which human behavior is the direct result of the exercise of free will. In two studies, we examined whether observers’ perceptions of fairness of a police-suspect interaction were influenced by the belief in free will. Both studies used a vignette describing an officer's disrespectful treatment of a suspect. Participants rated the fairness of the interaction and the suspect’s deservingness of the treatment. Results revealed that free will belief accounts for some variance in perceptions of fairness of police-suspect interactions. We discuss how these studies are the first step in identifying whether and how advances in behavioral and neuroscientific research may affect perceptions of procedural justice in the legal system.

White Racial Identity and its Impact on Punitive Attitudes Towards Juvenile Offenders

Gharib, R.

White Racial Identity is a relatively new concept with little to no consensus as to the operationalization of such identity. The first ever White Racial Identity model was developed by Janet E. Helms in 1990. The role of White racial identity has been studied in the context of the racial gap in employment and its influence on racial attitudes, but it has yet to be studied in the context of the juvenile justice system. The criminal justice system is racially imbalanced, with Black males imprisoned 5.5 times more than White males. One of the factors contributing to this imbalance is the interaction of racial prejudice and racial typification of criminality. To date, the literature excludes the exploration of White Racial Identity and its impact on the degree of punitive attitudes towards juvenile offenders, specifically Black juvenile offenders. To understand the connection of this racial identity and its impact on Black juvenile offenders, is to understand a potential avenue for juvenile justice reform in which racial biases do not dictate support nor opposition towards reform, but rather the efficacy of the reform is what is evaluated. This study investigated the relationship between healthy and unhealthy White Racial Identity and the level of punitiveness towards delinquency. This study collected data using the White Racial Identity Attitudes Scale and the Symbolic Racism 2000 Scale. A multiple regression implicated a significant relationship between the progression through the developmental stages of White Racial Identity and level of Symbolic Racism, as well as their impact on punitiveness towards delinquency.

Potential Juror's Perceptions of Communication in Masks

Shawn C. Marsh, S.C., Miller, M.K., Kirshenbaum, J.M.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged courts to implement practices that protect the health of both the administrators and consumers of justice during in-person proceedings, such as requiring the use of facemasks. Masks introduce interesting new questions for justice professionals. For example, what are potential jurors perceptions about masks' impact on communication? A survey of MTurk™ workers (N = 177) revealed respondents had a modest belief that masks could interfere with communication across actors, including the ability to understand information and assess “truth” in interactions. Respondents who were Native American, older, Catholic, Republican, and/or conservative tended to believe more strongly that masks interfere with communication. Implications of these findings for practice and future research are presented.

The Impact of Delayed Reporting, Assault Type, Victim Gender, and Victim-Defendant Familiarity on Mock-Juror's Judgements

Emily Pica, E., Sheahan, C.L., Pozzulo, J.D.

The current studies sought to examine whether assault type, among various extralegal variables, influenced mock-jurors' judgments. Study 1 investigated whether assault type (physical vs. sexual), delay in reporting (one year vs. ten years), and the victim's familiarity with the defendant (familiar vs. not familiar) influenced mock-jurors' judgments. Mock-jurors (N = 238) read a mock-trial transcript of either a physical or sexual assault that occurred at the victim's camp one year or ten years prior. The alleged perpetrator was a camp counselor that the victim had never met before or met their first year at the camp. Study 2 (N = 464) investigated whether assault type, delayed reporting, familiarity and victim gender were influential. The overarching theme present in the results is that sexual assault is perceived more negatively than physical assault as evidenced by higher guilt ratings and less favorable perceptions attributed to the defendant. Additionally, mock-jurors appear to be more hesitant to believe a victim who delayed her reporting of physical assault, compared to a delayed reporting of sexual assault. Implications of these findings and ideas for future research are discussed.

Domestic Violence Blame Attributions of Police Officers and College Students

Gamache, K.

This student explores domestic violence blame attributions of police officers and college students. A total of 387 college students from two institutions and 92 police officers were given the Domestic Violence Blame Attribution Scale (Petretic-Jackson et al., 1994). The results suggest that police officers and college students had significantly different ratings on the DVBS subscale scores, specifically that police officers had lower ratings of societal and perpetrator blame than college students. Continued exploration of the data showed that there were further differences within the samples. College students who had experienced domestic violence had different subscale scores than those that had not, notably that victims of domestic violence had higher ratings of situational blame. There also was a difference between college students attending a public institution and those attending a private institution. Domestic violence training appears to correlate with lower victim blaming ratings for police officers. Implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.