This study examines three previously unexplored aspects of the biasing impact of pretrial publicity. First, this study tests the differential effects of several different types of pretrial publicity on juror decision making. Second, this study explores the impact the presentation of trial evidence has on biases created by pretrial publicity. Finally, the study explores the psychological processes by which pretrial publicity effects may operate. Results indicate that pretrial publicity, particularly negative information about the defendant's character, can influence subjects' initial judgments about a defendant's guilt. This bias is weakened, but not eliminated by the presentation of trial evidence. Character pretrial publicity, and both weak and strong inadmissible statements appear to operate by changing subjects' initial judgments of the defendant's guilt. This initial judgment then affects the way subjects assess the evidence presented in the trial and the attributions they make about the defendant. Prior record pretrial publicity appears to have its effects by influencing subjects' inferences about the criminality of the defendant and this is related to posttrial judgments.
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This research was supported by the National Science Foundation under grant No. SES-8722438 to the second author.
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Otto, A.L., Penrod, S.D. & Dexter, H.R. The biasing impact of pretrial publicity on juror judgments. Law Hum Behav 18, 453–469 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01499050