The Impact of Pretrial Publicity on Mock Juror and Jury Verdicts: A Meta-Analysis

Lori A. Hoetger, Dennis J. Devine, Eve M. Brank, Ryan M. Drew, Rebecca Rees

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: We updated and extended a meta-analysis on pretrial publicity (PTP) conducted by Steblay et al. (1999) by reexamining the effect of negative (antidefendant) PTP on individual (juror) and deliberating group (jury) verdicts and the effect of positive (pro-defendant) PTP on individual verdicts. Hypotheses: We hypothesized that exposure to negative PTP would increase guilty verdicts from both jurors and juries, whereas exposure to positive PTP would decrease guilty verdicts. We predicted that the relationship between negative PTP and juror verdicts would vary according to methodological and theoretical variables. For methodological variables, we hypothesized that published studies, community-member participants, and crime-related comparison conditions would have a stronger PTP effect. For theoretical variables related to the story model, source monitoring bias, and predecisional distortion, we predicted that the effect of PTP would be stronger with more serious crimes, longer time delays, greater amounts of PTP, and more-severe PTP. Method: We analyzed 77 unique effect sizes extracted from 27 published and 18 unpublished reports based on 11,240 individual participants. Results: Negative PTP increased juror guilty verdicts (r =.16) and jury verdicts (r =.35), whereas positive PTP decreased guilty verdicts (r = −.21). Moderator analyses revealed that negative PTP’s effect on juror verdicts was stronger for published studies, student participants, and unrelated crime or no additional information control groups. Additionally, the biasing effect of negative PTP was stronger for nonviolent crimes, trial delays of less than 1 week, PTP presented in one article with multiple facts, and moderate-severity PTP. Conclusions: PTP has a modest biasing effect when it favors or disfavors the defendant. Nonetheless, the impact of negative PTP on individuals varies according to studies’ methodological variables and variables theoretically related to the mechanism underlying PTP’s biasing effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-139
Number of pages19
JournalLaw and human behavior
Volume46
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 27 2022

Keywords

  • Juror decision-making
  • Jury decision-making
  • Meta-analysis
  • Pretrial publicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law

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