Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 66–76 | Cite as

The Influence of a Defendant’s Chronological Age, Developmental Age, and Race on Mock Juror Decision Making

  • Emily PicaEmail author
  • Jennifer Pettalia
  • Joanna Pozzulo


The purpose of the current study was to examine whether a defendant’s developmental age, chronological age, and race influenced mock jurors’ decision making. Mock jurors (N = 444) read a trial transcript involving an assault where the defendant allegedly shoved the victim to the ground at a grocery store. The defendant’s developmental age (14 or 24 years old), chronological age (14 or 24 years old), and race (White, Black, or Aboriginal-Canadian) were varied. Mock jurors rendered a verdict and rated their perceptions of the defendant. Developmental age was found to influence verdict decisions such that a developmentally 24-year-old was given more guilty verdicts than a developmentally 14-year-old. Race was also influential such that the Black defendant received fewer guilty verdicts than the White defendant; no significant interactions were present. The presence of a developmental delay influenced mock jurors’ guilt ratings such that the defendant who was developmentally delayed received lower guilt ratings compared to a typically developing defendant. These results suggest that defendants with a developmental delay may be perceived more favorably, regardless of their race, and thus given more lenient treatment.


Juror decision making Defendant race Defendant age Developmental age Developmental abilities 


  1. Bagby R, Parker J, Rector N, Kalemba V (1994) Racial prejudice in the Canadian legal system. Law Hum Behav 18:339–350. doi: 10.1007/BF01499592 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bornstein BH (1999) The ecological validity of jury simulations: is the jury still out? Law Hum Behav 23:75–91. doi: 10.1023/A:1022326807441 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bottoms BL, Nysse-Carris KL, Harris T, Tyda K (2003) Jurors’ perceptions of adolescent sexual assault victims who have intellectual disabilities. Law Hum Behav 27:205–227. doi: 10.1023/A:1022551314668 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Bottoms B, Davis S, Epstein M (2004) Effects of victim and defendant race on jurors’ decisions in child sexual abuse cases. J Appl Soc Psychol 34:1–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bradley A, Mayzer R, Schefter M, Olufs E, Miller J, Laver M (2012) Juvenile competency and responsibility: public perceptions. J Appl Soc Psychol 42:2411–2432. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2012.00947.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bruer K, Pozzulo J (2014) Influence of eyewitness age and recall error on mock juror decision making. Leg Criminol Psychol 19:332–348. doi: 10.1111/lcrop.12001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Corenblum B, Stephan WG (2001) White fears and native apprehensions: an integrated threat theory approach to intergroup attitudes. Can J Behav Sci 33:251–268. doi: 10.1037/h0087147 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Crocker A, Hodgins S (1997) The criminality of noninstitutionalized mentally retarded persons: evidence from a birth cohort followed to age 30. Crim Justice Behav 24:432–454. doi: 10.1177/0093854897024004003 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Devine DJ, Caughlin DE (2014) Do they matter? A meta-analytic investigation of individual characteristics and guilt judgments. Psychol Public Policy Law 20:109–134. doi: 10.1037/law0000006 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gaertner SL, Dovidio JF (1986) The aversive form of racism. In: Dovidio J, Gaertner S (eds) Prejudice, discrimination and racism. Academic Press, Toronto, pp 61–89Google Scholar
  11. Ghetti S, Redlich AD (2001) Reactions to youth crime: perceptions of accountability and competency. Behav Sci Law 19:33–52. doi: 10.1002/bls.426 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Greathouse S, Sothmann C, Levett L, Kovera M (2011) The potentially biasing effects of voir dire in juvenile waiver cases. Law Hum Behav 35:427–439. doi: 10.1007/s10979-010-9247-z CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Haddock G, Zanna MP, Esses VM (1994) The (limited) role of trait-laden stereotypes in predicting attitudes toward native peoples. Br J Soc Psychol 33:83–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Haegerich T, Salerno J, Bottoms B (2013) Are the effects of juvenile offender stereotypes maximized or minimized by jury deliberation? Psychol Public Policy Law 19:81–97. doi: 10.1037/a0027808 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jones CS, Kaplan MF (2003) The effects of racially stereotypical crimes on juror decision-making and information-processing strategies. Basic Appl Soc Psychol 25(1):1–13. doi: 10.1207/S15324834BASP2501_1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kazdin AE (2000) Adolescent development, mental disorders, and decision making of delinquent youths. In: Grisso T, Schwartz RG (eds) Youth on trial: a developmental perspective on juvenile justice. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp 33–65Google Scholar
  17. Kerr H, Callender H (2013) Effectively responding to the rising challenge of mental health and addictions in corrections: how to effectively and efficiently treat these issues to reduce recidivism. Paper presented at the Canadian Congress on Criminal Justice Conference, Vancouver, BCGoogle Scholar
  18. Leistico AR, Salekin RT (2003) Testing the reliability and validity of the risk, sophistication-maturity, and treatment amenability instrument (RST-i): an assessment tool for juvenile offenders. Int J Forensic Ment Health 2:101–117. doi: 10.1080/14999013.2003.10471182 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Maeder EM, Burdett J (2013) The combined effect of defendant race and alleged gang affiliation on mock juror decision-making. Psychiatry Psychol Law 20:188–201. doi: 10.1080/13218719.2011.633330 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Maeder EM, Yamamoto S, Saliba P (2015) The influence of defendant race and victim physical attractiveness on juror decision-making in a sexual assault trial. Psychol Crime Law 21:62–79. doi: 10.1080/1068316X.2014.915325 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Mazzella R, Feingold A (1994) The effects of physical attractiveness, race, socioeconomic status, and gender of defendants and victims on judgments of mock jurors: a meta-analysis. J Appl Soc Psychol 24:1315–1338. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.1994.tb01552.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Mitchell TL, Haw RM, Pfeifer JE, Meissner CA (2005) Racial bias in mock juror decision-making: a meta-analytic review of defendant treatment. Law Hum Behav 29(6):621–637. doi: 10.1007/s10979-005-8122-9 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Najdowski CJ, Bottoms BL (2011) Understanding jurors’ judgments in cases involving juvenile defendants: effects of confession evidence and intellectual disability. Psychol Public Policy Law 18:297–337. doi: 10.1037/a0025786 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Najdowski CJ, Bottoms BL, Vargas MC (2009) Jurors’ perceptions of juvenile defendants: the influence of intellectual disability, abuse history, and confession evidence. Behav Sci Law 27:401–430. doi: 10.1002/bsl.873 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. O’Keefe DJ (2002) Persuasion: theory & research. Sage Publications, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  26. Office of the Correctional Investigator (2013) Annual report from the Government of Canada. Retrieved on August 9, 2014 from
  27. Pfeifer JE, Ogloff JR (2003) Mock juror’s ratings of guilt in Canada: modern racism and ethnic heritage. Soc Behav Personal 31(3):301–312. doi: 10.2224/sbp.2003.31.3.301 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. R. v. Williams (1998) 1 S.C.R. 1128Google Scholar
  29. Riva G, Teruzzi T, Anolli L (2003) The use of the internet in psychological research: comparison of online and offline questionnaires. Cyberpsychol Behav 6:73–80. doi: 10.1089/109493103321167983 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Rogers P, Davies M (2007) Perceptions of victims and perpetrators in a depicted child sexual abuse case: gender and age factors. J Interpers Violence 22:566–584. doi: 10.1177/0886260506298827 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Salekin R, Yff R, Neumann C, Leistico A, Zalot A (2002) Juvenile transfer to adult courts: a look at the prototypes for dangerousness, sophistication-maturity, and amenability to treatment through a legal lens. Psychol Public Policy Law 8:373–410. doi: 10.1037/1076-8971.8.4.373 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Schuller RA, Kazoleas V, Kawakami K (2009) The impact of prejudice screening procedures on racial bias in the courtroom. Law Hum Behav 33(4):320–328. doi: 10.1007/s10979-008-9153-9 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Semple J, Woody WD (2011) Juveniles tried as adults: the age of the juvenile matters. Psychol Rep 109:301–308. doi: 10.2466/07.17.PR0.109.4.301-308 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Sommers SR, Ellsworth PC (2000) Race in the courtroom: perceptions of guilt and dispositional attributions. Personal Soc Psychol Bull 26(3):1367–1379. doi: 10.1177/0146167200263005 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sommers SR, Ellsworth PC (2009) “Race salience” in juror decision-making. Misconceptions, clarifications, and unanswered questions. Behav Sci Law 27:599–609. doi: 10.1002/bsl.877 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Sweeney LT, Haney C (1992) The influence of race on sentencing: a meta-analytic review of experimental studies. Behav Sci Law 10:179–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Walker CM, Woody WD (2011) Juror decision making for juveniles tried as adults: the effects of defendant age, crime type, and crime outcome. Psychol Crime Law 17:659–675. doi: 10.1080/1068316090349471 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Warling D, Peterson-Badali M (2003) The verdict on jury trials for juveniles: the effects of defendant’s age on trial outcomes. Behav Sci Law 21:63–82. doi: 10.1002/bsl.517 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Society for Police and Criminal Psychology 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada

Personalised recommendations