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Volume 2 Issue 2

The Moderating Effect of Judge's Instructions on Victim Impact Testimony in Capital Cases

Platania, J., & Berman, G. L.

In this study, we addressed whether victim impact instructions served as a legal safeguard ina capital case involving victim impact testimony. We hypothesized that specific victim impact insturctions would moderate the realtion between victim impact testimony and death penalty recommendations. o­ne hundred sixty-six participants viewed a simulated videotaped trial in which a victim impact statement was delivered in different emotional conditions. Judge's instructions were varied as either general instructions or with the addition of specific victim impact instructions. Particpant-jurors who heard specific victim impact instructions were less likely to recommend death compared to participants who heard general jury instructions. The value of victim impact instructions as a legal safeguard in capital trials is discussed.

What Fairness Means to Crime Victims: A Social Psychological Perspective

Wemmers, J., & Cyr, K.

While victims are often considered the forgotten party in the criminal justice system, restorative justice has emerged as a new approach that includes victims by making them part of the legal response to crime. Based o­n interviews with victims who were invited to participate in a victim-offender mediation program, the present study examines victims' procedural justice judgements. The theoretical framework for the study is based o­n the procedural justice theory (Lind & Tyler, 1988; Tyler, 2003). Victims seek more than merely an opportunity to express themselves. It is not enough that victims can make demands; they also want their voices to be heard. This paper closes with a discussion of the implications of the findings.

The Impact of Situational Cues and Bystander Emotion on Labeling an Event as a Robbery

Langsdale, A. & Greenberg, M. S.

This study examined the influence of situational cues and observer mood o­n labeling an ambiguous event as a robbery. Participants (210 women) were randomly assigned to o­ne of 12 cells in a 2 x 2 x 3 between-subjects factorial design. Participants viewed a short video of a street interaction between a man and a woman. Two independent variables were manipulated in the video: (a) duration of their conversation (10 vs. 30 seconds), and (b) the man’s speed of departure (walk vs. run). Prior to viewing the video, participants’ completed (c) a mood induction task (positive, neutral, or negative). Results revealed that running from the scene was labeled as a robbery o­nly when the actors conversed for a short duration. When they conversed for a longer duration, speed of departure did not affect how the event was labeled. The participant’s mood had minimal effect o­n how the event was labeled. The implications of the findings for bystanders’ failure to intervene or notify the police were discussed.

Comparing Eyewitness Memory and Confidence for Actors and Observers in Product Identification

Colby, M. A. & Weaver, C. A.

Numerous studies have demonstrated problems with the reliability of eyewitnesses in criminal justice setting. Many of the same concerns apply to eyewitnesses in civil cases involving product identification testimony, as in asbestos litigation. We examined differences in product identification memory between witnesses with differing levels of involvement, the effects of delay before testing, experience, pre-existing familiarity, and participants’ self-reported confidence. Participants either mixed recipes (actors) or observed this mixing (observers) and later were tested about the brands used. Contrary to expectations, observers were slightly more accurate than actors, though all witnesses were influenced by pre-existing familiarity. Confidence was unrelated to accuracy in all conditions. Participants with more baking experience were more confident, but not more accurate, suggesting experience inflates confidence without improving accuracy. We discuss implications for matters of product identification testimony.