Rape trials and jurors' decisions

A psycholegal analysis of the effects of victim, defendant, and case characteristics

Abstract

Recently, many writers have argued that equal protection for victims of rape is not presently offered in the courts since the outcomes of rape trials are frequently influenced by certain victim, defendant, and rape case characteristics. By systematically manipulating the factors of defendant and victim race, victim physical attractiveness, victim sexual experience, strength of evidence presented, and type of rape committed in a legal rape case, the present study sought to examine the effects of these factors on jurors' verdicts. Data collected from a sample of 896 citizens serving as mock jurors for the rape case indicated that these extraevidential factors had significant effects. Furthermore, it was found that the factors did not act independently as a number of significant interactions were identified. These interactions suggested that the impact of extraevidential factors on jurors' decisions is far more complex than what some writers and law reformers have thought. Implications of the findings are discussed in terms of discriminatory treatment of plaintiffs and defendants in rape cases and the role of juror selection in introducing “fairness” in rape trials.

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Feild, H.S. Rape trials and jurors' decisions. Law Hum Behav 3, 261–284 (1979). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01039806

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Keywords

  • Significant Interaction
  • Social Psychology
  • Sexual Experience
  • Physical Attractiveness
  • Case Characteristic