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Steblay et al (1999) - MetaAnalysis Article

Steblay et al (1999) - MetaAnalysis Article - Law and Human...

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Law and Human Behavior, Vol. 23, No. 2, 1999 The Effects of Pretrial Publicity on Juror Verdicts: A Meta-Analytic Review Nancy Mehrkens Steblay, 1,3 Jasmina Besirevic, 1 Solomon M. Fulero, 2 and Belia Jimenez-Lorente 1 The effect of pretrial publicity (PTP) on juror verdicts was examined through a meta-analysis of 44 empirical tests representing 5,755 subjects. In support of the hypothesis, subjects exposed to negative PTP were significantly more likely to judge the defendant guilty compared to subjects exposed to less or no negative PTP. Greater effect sizes were produced in studies which included a pretrial verdict assessment, use of the potential juror pool as subjects, multiple points of negative information included in the PTP, real PTP, crimes of murder, sexual abuse, or drugs, and greater length of time between PTP exposure and judgment. The effect was attenuated with student subjects, use of general rather than specific PTP information, certain types of PTP content, a post-trial predeliberation verdict, and specific types of crimes. Implications of these results are discussed, along with possible mechanisms that underlie the PTP effect. In legal cases that achieve community- or nationwide notoriety, the attendant publicity is often massive. Even prior to a trial, one need only mention a criminal defendant's last name (Sheppard, Manson, Simpson, McVeigh, Kaczynski) or nickname (Boston Strangler, Hillside Strangler, Son of Sam, Unabomber) to trig- ger recognition and recall of facts and innuendo about the case gleaned from media sources. In such cases, two constitutional guarantees—the First Amend- ment right of freedom of the press and the Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial—often collide. The question of whether pretrial publicity (PTP) about criminal cases has an effect on the ultimate outcome of the resulting trial may appear to be a 20th century phenomenon, but it actually has a long history. As long ago as 1846, a New York legal writer (Note, 1846) stated that: 1 Department of Psychology, Augsburg College, Minneapolis, Minnesota. 2 Department of Psychology, Sinclair College, Dayton, Ohio (e-mail: [email protected]). 3 Correspondence should be directed to Dr. Nancy Steblay, Department of Psychology, Augsburg College, 2211 Riverside Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55454 (e-mail: [email protected]). 219 0147-7307/99/0400-0219$16.00/1 C 1999 American Psychology-Law Society/Division 41 of the American Psychological Association
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Ours is the greatest newspaper reading population in the world; there is not a man among us fit to serve as a juror, who does not read the newspapers. Every great and startling crime is paraded in their columns, with all the minuteness of detail that an eager competitor for public favor can supply. Hence, the usual question, which has now become almost a necessary form in empaneling a jury, "have you formed or expressed an opinion?" is virtually equivalent to the inquiry, "do you read the newspapers?" . . . . In the case of a particularly audacious crime that has been widely discussed it is utterly impossible that any man of common intelligence, and not
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