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Volume 13 Issue 1

Assessing the accuracy of English-as-a-second-language eyewitness testimonies and contemporaneous officer notes using two methods

Allison, M., Basquin, C., & Gerwing, J.

Although English-as-a-Second Language (ESL) eyewitnesses interact regularly with police officers in the US and Canada, little research has examined their testimonies. This study sought to assess the testimony accuracy of 17 ESL witnesses, and the contemporaneous notes the officers made during free and cued recall questioning. We assessed accuracy using two methods: A checklist approach (CL) that has been used in past studies (e.g., List, 1986) and an inductive microanalysis of face-to-face dialogue (MFD) approach that was developed for this study. We found that witnesses gave more accurate information in free recall and made more errors in cued recall when both the CL and MFD methods of analysis were used. The same pattern of results held for the officer note data. When we directly compared the MFD and CL data, however, we found that the MFD method captured more information (both accurate and inaccurate witness details), suggesting that it provides richer accuracy data for eyewitness testimony and officer notes. Future research on ESL witness testimony using the MFD approach is discussed.

The legal and methodological implications of death qualification operationalization

West, M. P., Wood, E. F., Casas, J. B., & Miller, M. K.

Jury selection for death penalty cases is unique in that it includes a "death qualification" process in which prospective jurors are probed concerning their attitudes toward the death penalty and whether their attitudes would interfere with their performance as jurors. The current study assessed the relationship between two death qualification standards (i.e., the Witt standard and Witherspoon-Morgan standard) and mock jurors' endorsements of evidence and sentencing decisions. Results showed the Witherspoon-Morgan standard was significantly related to the dichotomous sentencing decision, whereas the Witt standard was not. Similarly, the Witt standard was significantly related to aggravator endorsement, whereas the Witherspoon-Morgan standard was not. These disparate relationships have implications for attorneys and judges in capital cases, as well as death penalty researchers.

Do perceptions of statutory rape vary based on offender and victim pairings? Testing the effects of race and gender

Klein, J. L., & Cooper, D. T.

The stereotypical profile of a common sex offender (older, white, male stranger who targets a young, female victim) has been pervasive in the media portrayal of this group of offenders. In this study, we used a 2x2x2x2 factorial design vignette study to examine participants' (n=343) positive or negative perceptions of the offender/victim relationship, how severe the scenario was, whether or not the offender is likely to recidivate, and whether or not the minor victim had any responsibility for the statutory rape occurring. Participants read one of 16 fictional vignettes, which varied based on four characteristics of target: offender race (white vs. black), victim race (white vs. black), offender gender (male vs. female) and victim gender (male vs. female). This study examines the effects of those variable manipulations in relation to the above four dependent measures. Unexpected results showed participant sympathy toward black, male victims despite the common profile stating that white, female victims are more commonly targets. The results and policy implications are discussed.

Unique and combined contributions of callous-unemotional traits and parental incarceration on juvenile delinquency in an at-risk sample

Herrington. L. L., Barry, C. T., & Reiter, S. R.

Research suggests that both callous-unemotional (CU) traits and history of parental incarceration are predictors of juvenile delinquency. However, their interaction in association with such behaviors has yet to be investigated. Participants were 213 adolescents (201 males, 12 females) ranging in age from 16 to 19 enrolled in a residential program. Higher levels of overall CU traits were related to juvenile delinquency, and parental incarceration was associated with higher delinquency among adolescents with relatively low levels of CU traits. Consistent with prior research, CU traits may indicate risk of engaging in juvenile delinquency, yet parental incarceration may be particularly relevant for youth low in CU traits. Implications and issues for further research are discussed.

Social cognitive processes and attitudes toward legal actions: Does receiving information affect community sentiment?

Reichert, J. & Miller, M. K.

Voters influence laws, often without being fully informed. Justice Thurgood Marshall proposed that, if American citizens were fully informed of the goals and consequences of the death penalty, they would not support its use. The present studies demonstrated --this principle applied to laws other than the death penalty, specifically, laws regulating the behavior of pregnant women (e.g., drug use, cesarean section). Four studies expanded existing attitude change research and determined whether support for such laws was related to: 1) "first thoughts" about the laws; 2) information received about the laws; 3) valence of information; and 4) source of information (i.e., self, peers, researcher). In the first experiment, receiving information produced more negative attitudes than a no-information, control group, perhaps because most participants' first thoughts about the laws concerned the health of the fetus (rather than the mother's rights). The second study confirmed this through factor analysis of responses to a thought-listing task and determined that type of first thought (e.g., about the fetus, mother) predicted attitude. In a third study, a mixed method design, attitudes changed based on the type of information (e.g., negative, positive) given by the researcher, though a fourth study indicated that attitudes did not change after debate with peers. Finally, Need for Cognition and Legal Authoritarianism related to support for the laws. Results have implications for community sentiment research, policy regarding the health and behavior of pregnant women, and psychology research on social cognitive processes and attitude theory.

A hybridization of simultaneous and sequential lineups reveals diagnostic features of both traditional procedures

Terrell, J. T., Baggett, A. R., Dasse, M. N., & Malavanti, K. F.

This study investigated a hybridization of simultaneous and sequential procedures to facilitate eyewitness identifications. The slideshow procedure presented photos to participants in a cycling loop, allowing them to view photos multiple times, but always one-at-a-time. We hypothesized allowing witnesses to view all photos without directly comparing them would increase correct identifications and correct non-identifications. Simultaneous presentation led to the most correct identifications, while sequential presentation led to the most correct non-identifications. The hybridization reduced both types of correct response and failed to support our hypothesis. The hybridization appears to promote guessing rather than conservative responding. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis revealed simultaneous advantage when making identifications, but sequential advantage when making non-identifications. We conclude that performing ROC analysis of both identifications and non-identifications may reveal the same interaction noted between perpetrator presence and lineup modality when analyzing identification decisions.