Category Archives: Juries

Quick links – investigations, courtroom, punishment, profiling and more

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Quick links from around the web and blogosphere:

Investigations and courtroom :

The Sunday Times (25 Nov) reports on a new facial morphing technique called EvoFIT “that transforms the Photofit faces of criminal suspects into animated caricatures up to seven times more likely to be recognised than standard likenesses”. The system was developed by UK psychologists, one of whom commented that using the new system leads to “…a massive jump in the level of recognition [which] is really reliable”. Lots more information including plenty of downloadable papers on the EvoFIT webpages .

The Eyewitness Identification Reform blog highlights scholarly commentary on the effectiveness of cross-examination for getting at the truth of eyewitness evidence.

Following a detailed and extensively researched analysis, Prof. Epstein [the author of the commentary] concludes that the highly revered truth-seeking tool of cross-examination, while perhaps effective at rooting out liars, is utterly ineffective at uncovering the truth when faced with a witness who is confident, but honestly mistaken about what he or she remembers – which accounts for the majority of cases in which mistaken identification has led to wrongful conviction.

Mo over at Neurophilosophy (a great blog that doesn’t often post on forensic issues) discusses research on creating false memories by doctoring photographs. Participants who saw altered images had different memories of the events in the photographs:

For example, those participants shown the doctored photograph of [a] protest in Rome…in which figures placed in the foreground give the impression of violence, rated the event as being significantly more violent and negative than it actually was. In their comments, they also provided false details, such as conflicts, damages, injuries and casualties that did not appear in the photos and were not documented at the event.

The whole issue of Applied Cognitive Psychology is about ‘cognition and the media’ and includes other papers on the fallability of memory, which will be of use to anyone interested in eyewitness memory.

Anne Reed at the fabulous Deliberations blog reports on research into the Grim Power of Grim Evidence. Apparently “jurors presented with gruesome evidence, such as descriptions or images of torture and mutilation, are up to five times more likely to convict a defendant than jurors not privy to such evidence.”

Punishment:

The ever-interesting Karen Franklin comments on juvenile detention, and starts by posing some simple questions with disturbing answers. Did you know, for instance, that only two nations sentence children to life in prison? According to Karen, they are Israel, with 7 child lifers, and the USA, with an astonishing 2,387 child lifers.

Michael Connolly at Corrections Sentencing offers a detailed discussion of an article which “calls for broad application of empirical psychology to the study of the motive behind punishments”. The article is in press and due to appear in 2008.

  • Reference: Carlsmith, K.M., & Darley, J.M. (in press). Psychological aspects of retributive justice. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, M. Zanna, Ed. (Elsevier, NY, 2008) vol. 41.

Psychopaths:

The criminal psychopath is the topic of a post at Top Two Inches, and over at the Deception Blog, a comment on research on whether psychopathic liars give themselves away through their verbal behaviour.

Profiling:

Crimson Shadows posts (with permission) the full text of ex-FBI profiler John Douglas’s response to Malcolm Gladwell’s article on profiling that appeared in the New Yorker last month. Douglas argues that Gladwell’s article misrepresents the science and practice of profiling.

Miscellany:

Terrific analysis of an fMRI study linking paedophilia to differences in the brain over at the Brain Ethics blog,  critiquing both the method and the interpretation of the results of this study.  In sum “at the least, just because the brain shows a difference, one cannot conclude anything beyond this about causation.”

The BPS Research Digest has also included a couple of forensically relevant posts recently: detecting feigned mental retardation and inter-ethnic violence.

As well as the post on juvenile detention mentioned above, Karen Franklin’s posted a lot of other good stuff recently too, including pointing us towards a Canadian news article on false confessions, commenting on how the UK is considering stricter controls on the use of expert scientific evidence, and a great piece on tracking serial killers in South Africa.

Romeo Vitelli’s Providentia blog reports on an intervention program for young victims of violence, child abuse and brain development, and an usual case of car fetishism.

Photo credit: bigeoino, Creative Commons License

“Reforms aim to dispel rape myths and increase convictions”

no2rapeThe UK Government has finally published details of proposed reforms to the criminal justice system, in a bid do something to increase the appalling 6% conviction rate for rape. I can’t find a link to the official Government announcement, but the Guardian (29 Nov) is one of many news media to report the details, which include informing jurors of the range of responses that victims may have to rape:

Juries are to be told how rape victims typically respond in an attempt to dispel “rape myths” which ministers believe are contributing to plummeting conviction rates for the crime. A panel of judges, doctors and academics will start work next month on the project, which will attempt to put together a package to inform the jury without interfering with the fairness of a trial.

… Ministers initially proposed allowing expert witnesses to give evidence to the jury on how rape victims behave. But that idea, which circuit judges described as a “minefield”, has been shelved. The panel is expected to recommend an information booklet, a video or directions from the judge. A proposal for a statutory definition of “capacity to consent” – to deal with situations where a woman was so drunk it was questionable whether she had the power to say yes or no – has also been scrapped.

There is plenty of research on rape myths and a fair amount on jurors’ decision making in rape and sexual assault trials (see below the fold). And the issue of ‘capacity to consent’ has received recent attention: research sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Centre and completed last year by UK researchers Dr Emily Finch and Dr Vanessa Munro suggests that juries are ‘unsympathetic’ to women who make allegations of rape following a period of heavy drinking : Finch and Munro “found that jurors often took the view that it was ‘reasonable’ for a man to assume that silence represented sexual consent, even if the silence was due to the fact that the woman was totally intoxicated”.

So efforts to address jurors’ stereotypes about rape and rape victims are welcome. But as the Fawcett Society points out, attrition in rape cases starts early. The vast majority of allegations of rape don’t even get as far as the courtroom. The UK Home Office published an excellent report earlier this year, in which the authors examined patterns of attrition in rape cases (Feist et al., 2007). They found that nearly 70% of cases were lost between the victims’ allegation being recorded and a suspect being charged, with the main reasons being the victim withdrawing her* complaint, perhaps because she lost confidence in the police investigation, and the police failing to find enough evidence to charge a suspect. Rape is a difficult crime to investigate, but the Feist et al. findings indicated variation in attrition rates across police forces, suggesting that local practices might in part contribute to the failure to bring rapists to justice. Reforms need to address the care of victims of rape and the investigation of sexual assault cases if real progress is to be made in increasing our pitiful conviction rapes.

* the Feist et al. research only covered investigations of allegations of rape of females

References:

Further references on rape myths and jury decision making below the fold.

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Continue reading “Reforms aim to dispel rape myths and increase convictions”

New issues: Journal of Criminal Justice

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Journal of Criminal Justice 35(4), July-August 2007 and Journal of Criminal Justice 35(5), September-October 2007 are now online. Follow the link to the publisher’s website for abstracts and access to full text articles.

Contents:

Journal of Criminal Justice 35(4):

  • Predicting crime story salience: A replication – Steven Chermak and Nicole M. Chapman
  • Duration of the time to reconviction: Evidence from UK prisoner discharge data – Roger Arthur Bowles and Chrisostomos Florackis
  • Convicting and incarcerating felony offenders of intimate assault and the odds of new assault charges – John Wooldredge
  • Roles of neighborhood race and status in the middle stages of juror selection – Ralph B. Taylor, Jerry H. Ratcliffe, Lillian Dote and Brian A. Lawton
  • Race and repeats: The impact of officer performance on racially biased policing – Lisa Growette Bostaph
  • Interpersonal violent crime in Ghana: The case of assault in Accra – Joseph Appiahene-Gyamfi
  • The long-term impact of restorative justice programming for juvenile offenders – Kathleen J. Bergseth and Jeffrey A. Bouffard
  • How does reactivity affect police behavior? Describing and quantifying the impact of reactivity as behavioral change in a large-scale observational study of police – Richard Spano

Journal of Criminal Justice 35(5):

  • Differentiating among racial/ethnic groups and its implications for understanding juvenile justice decision making – Michael J. Leiber, Joseph Johnson, Kristan Fox and Robyn Lacks
  • Prisonization and accounts of gun carrying – Paul B. Stretesky, Mark Pogrebin, N. Prabha Unnithan and Gerry Venor
  • Victims’ perceptions of police response to domestic violence incidents – Ida M. Johnson
  • Considering the efficacy of situational crime prevention in schools – Lauren O’Neill and Jean Marie McGloin
  • Citizen assessment of local criminal courts: Does fairness matter? – Kevin Buckler, Francis T. Cullen and James D. Unnever
  • Investigating the impact of extended bar closing times on police stops for DUI – Leana Allen Bouffard, Lindsey Ellen Bergeron and Jeffrey A. Bouffard
  • Operationalizing risk: The influence of measurement choice on the prevalence and correlates of prison violence among incarcerated murderers – Jon R. Sorensen and Mark D. Cunningham
  • Stalking acknowledgement and reporting among college women experiencing intrusive behaviors: Implications for the emergence of a “classic stalking case” – Carol E. Jordan, Pamela Wilcox and Adam J. Pritchard
  • A note on the status of discretion in police research – Ernest L. Nickels

Docuticker round-up

ex libris gul law reports collectionLatest criminal justice-related reports via Docuticker:

Juror attitudes and biases in sexual assault cases, published by the Australian Institute of Criminology (pdf):

…This paper presents findings from two recent studies […that] show that juror judgements in rape trials are influenced more by the attitudes, beliefs and biases about rape which jurors bring with them into the courtroom than by the objective facts presented, and that stereotypical beliefs about rape and victims of it still exist within the community.

Recidivism in Australia : findings and future research, published by the Australian Institute of Criminology (pdf):

This report deals with important questions relating to recidivism research. It provides a conceptual framework through which recidivism can be defined and interpreted and arms researchers and policy makers with a battery of tools useful in critical assessment of the research literature.

Courtroom Demeanor: The Theater of the Courtroom, from the Minnesota Law Review (via SSRN):

…Trials are affected by many factors, including the appearance and demeanor of the defendant. This article proposes an approach to deal with non-testifying demeanor evidence that occurs outside the witness box. Given the problems with having jurors rely on demeanor evidence, courts should be carefully monitoring the use of non-testifying demeanor evidence. Appropriate jury instructions should be given, including those warning jurors on proper use of such evidence.

Frequency and Predictors of False Conviction: Why We Know so Little, and New Data on Capital Cases, a University of Michigan Public Law Working Paper (via SSRN):

In the first part of this paper we address the problems inherent in studying wrongful convictions: our pervasive ignorance and the extreme difficulty of obtaining the data that we need to answer even basic questions. ….In the second part we dispel some of that ignorance by considering data on false convictions in a small but important subset of criminal cases about which we have unusually detailed information: death sentences… Based on these comparisons we present a handful of findings on features of the investigations of capital cases, and on background facts about capital defendants, that are modest predictors of false convictions.

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New issue: Behavioral Sciences & the Law

journals

The July / August 2007 issue of Behavioral Sciences & the Law 25(4) is now online. Follow the link to the publisher’s website for abstracts and access to full text articles.

Contents include:

  • The function of punishment in the civil commitment of sexually violent predators – Kevin M. Carlsmith, John Monahan, Alison Evans
  • Constructing insanity: jurors’ prototypes, attitudes, and legal decision-making – Jennifer Eno Louden, Jennifer L Skeem
  • Facets of psychopathy, Axis II traits, and behavioral dysregulation among jail detainees – Richard Rogers, Mandy J. Jordan, Kimberly S. Harrison
  • Improving forensic tribunal decisions: the role of the clinician – Shari A. McKee, Grant T. Harris, Marnie E. Rice
  • Determining dangerousness in sexually violent predator evaluations: cognitive-experiential self-theory and juror judgments of expert testimony – Joel D. Lieberman, Daniel A. Krauss, Mariel Kyger, Maribeth Lehoux
  • An examination of behavioral consistency using individual behaviors or groups of behaviors in serial homicide – Alicia L. Bateman, C. Gabrielle Salfati
  • Can defendants with mental retardation successfully fake their performance on a test of competence to stand trial? – Caroline Everington, Heidi Notario-Smull, Mel L. Horton
  • The role of death qualification and need for cognition in venirepersons’ evaluations of expert scientific testimony in capital trials – Brooke Butler, Gary Moran
  • Plea bargaining recommendations by criminal defense attorneys: evidence strength, potential sentence, and defendant preference – Greg M. Kramer, Melinda Wolbransky, Kirk Heilbrun
  • Megan’s law and its impact on community re-entry for sex offenders – Jill S. Levenson, David A. D’Amora, Andrea L. Hern
  • Criminality and continued DUI offense: criminal typologies and recidivism among repeat offenders – Richard A. LaBrie, Rachel C. Kidman, Mark Albanese, Allyson J. Peller, Howard J. Shaffer

New issues: Journal of Experimental Criminology 3(2) and 3(3)

journals

The latest two issues of Journal of Experimental Criminology are now online. Follow the link to the publisher’s website for abstracts and access to full text articles.

Journal of Experimental Criminology 3(2), June 2007 is a special issue on Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Research in the Netherlands. Contents include:

  • Experimental and quasi-experimental criminological research in the Netherlands – Gerben J. N. Bruinsma and David Weisburd
  • Contextual determinants of juveniles’ willingness to report crimes: A vignette experiment – Heike Goudriaan and Paul Nieuwbeerta
  • Implementing randomized experiments in criminal justice settings: An evaluation of multi-systemic therapy in the Netherlands – Jessica J. Asscher, Maja Dekovic, Peter H. van der Laan, Pier J. M. Prins and Sander van Arum
  • Bridging the gap between judges and the public? A multi-method study – Jan W. de Keijser, Peter J. van Koppen and Henk Elffers
  • Newspaper juries: A field experiment concerning the effect of information on attitudes towards the criminal justice system – Henk Elffers, Jan W. de Keijser, Peter J. van Koppen and Laurien van Haeringe
  • Fare dodging and the strong arm of the law: An experimental evaluation of two different penalty schemes for fare evasion – Catrien Bijleveld

Journal of Experimental Criminology 3(3), September 2007, contents include:

  • The effects of an experimental intensive juvenile probation program on self-reported delinquency and drug use – Jodi Lane, Susan Turner, Terry Fain, Amber Sehgal
  • An experimental study of a therapeutic boot camp: Impact on impulses, attitudes and recidivism – Doris Layton MacKenzie, David Bierie, Ojmarrh Mitchell
  • Statistical inference and meta-analysis – Richard Berk
  • Unjustified inferences about meta-analysis – Mark W. Lipsey
  • A world without meta-analysis – William R. Shadish
  • The powerful seductions alchemy – Richard Berk

New issue: Behavioral Sciences & the Law 25(4)

journals

Behavioral Sciences & the Law 25(4) , July/Aug 2007 is now online. Follow the link to the publisher’s website for abstracts and access to full text articles.

Contents include:

  • The function of punishment in the ‘civil’ commitment of sexually violent predators – Kevin M. Carlsmith, John Monahan, Alison Evans
  • Constructing insanity: jurors’ prototypes, attitudes, and legal decision-making – Jennifer Eno Louden, Jennifer L Skeem
  • Facets of psychopathy, Axis II traits, and behavioral dysregulation among jail detainees – Richard Rogers, Mandy J. Jordan, Kimberly S. Harrison
  • Improving forensic tribunal decisions: the role of the clinician – Shari A. McKee, Grant T. Harris, Marnie E. Rice
  • Determining dangerousness in sexually violent predator evaluations: cognitive-experiential self-theory and juror judgments of expert testimony – Joel D. Lieberman, Daniel A. Krauss, Mariel Kyger, Maribeth Lehoux
  • An examination of behavioral consistency using individual behaviors or groups of behaviors in serial homicide – Alicia L. Bateman, C. Gabrielle Salfati
  • Can defendants with mental retardation successfully fake their performance on a test of competence to stand trial? – Caroline Everington, Heidi Notario-Smull, Mel L. Horton
  • The role of death qualification and need for cognition in venirepersons’ evaluations of expert scientific testimony in capital trials – Brooke Butler, Gary Moran
  • Plea bargaining recommendations by criminal defense attorneys: evidence strength, potential sentence, and defendant preference – Greg M. Kramer, Melinda Wolbransky, Kirk Heilbrun
  • Megan’s law and its impact on community re-entry for sex offenders – Jill S. Levenson, David A. D’Amora, Andrea L. Hern
  • Criminality and continued DUI offense: criminal typologies and recidivism among repeat offenders – Richard A. LaBrie, Rachel C. Kidman, Mark Albanese, Allyson J. Peller, Howard J. Shaffer

Quick links

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Quick links from around the web and blogosphere:

From the BPS Research Digest Blog, research that suggests jurors may be biased against fathers in child sex abuse trials: The researchers “found that with all other circumstances and evidence held equal, people are more likely to judge a father guilty than a mother. However the same gender bias wasn’t found to apply when the suspect was a stranger to the alleged victim.”

Via Schneier on Security, the San Francisco Chronicle (14 Aug) discusses the proposition that CCTV cameras in San Francisco public housing developments “have never helped police officers arrest a homicide suspect even though about a quarter of the city’s homicides occur on or near public housing property”.

Mind Hacks comments on a story in Time Magazine (8 Aug) on efforts to overcome law enforcement stereotypes and misconceptions about people with mental illness.

Providentia highlights a recent study on the ‘fear standard’ in stalking. The abstract concludes: “Requiring a woman to feel fearful before accepting her experience as an instance of stalking risks… a miscarriage of justice, an undercount of the crime, and an abandonment of women (and others) who need validation from the state and protection from stalkers”.

Grits for Breakfast has run a series of posts on ‘snitching’ recently, including: informant-related news stories, the prevalence of the ‘no snitching’ code and the crucial distinction between a ‘snitch’ and a witness.

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Latest issue of the RCMP Gazette now online

mountieThe latest issue of the RCMP’s Gazette (volume 69, issue 2) is online, featuring several stories on crimes against children, both offline and on the internet.

Particular articles that caught my eye include an account of the psychological support given to officers involved in online paedophile investigations at the Surete de Quebec, an article by Martine Powell on questioning child victims and witnesses, and a great article on research gaps in this area from Roberta Sinclair, Ethel Quayle, Merlyn Horton and Tink Palmer. One area where more research is needed is, they argue, in:

our understanding of offenders who employ Internet-based techniques to engage in adult-child sexual exploitation. The following questions should be addressed:

* What are the characteristics of offenders who sexually exploit children solely through the Internet?
* How do Internet offenders differ from contact offenders?
* Do chat sites, bulletin boards and websites that support adult-child sexual interest encourage and legitimize pro-abuse ideologies?
* Do these sites increase the risk of contact offending?

The research in this area is growing, but much of our knowledge is still based on incarcerated sexual offenders. Examining Internet offenders may expose the differences between this group and sexual offenders who do not use the Internet to abuse children.

Also in this issue, articles on cross-border operations against organised crime; digital evidence in the courtroom; mental illness and the role of the police; occupational stressors and ‘noble cause’ corruption; the CSI effect and the Canadian jury; trends in art crime; and resilience at the RCMP. Access it all for free via this link.

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Quick links

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Quick links from around the web and blogosphere:

Mind Hacks (12 July) discusses recent commentary by Bruce Schneier on why terrorism fails, who in turn is commenting on a paper [pdf] by Max Abrahms (abstract over at the Terrorism Blog)

Also thanks to Mind Hacks, a pointer to an article in the Journal of Forensic Sciences outlining the case histories of two serial killers, which, the authors say “illustrate the wide spectrum of variations in the backgrounds, demographics, motivations, and actions witnessed among serial murderers, and highlight the limitations and dangers of profiling based on generalities”.

Wray Herbert on the Association of Psychological Science blog We’re Only Human (10 July) explores the links between alcohol and aggression, the subject of an article in the latest issue of Psychological Science. Herbert concludes:

It appears that alcohol has the potential to both increase and decrease aggression, depending on where’s one’s attention is focused.

The Situationist (10 July) discuss what happens When Thieves See Situation: apparently con artists are exploiting information collected via the market research of major corporations, using it to target elderly victims:

Publicly held companies… compile and sell lists of consumers. Con artists purchase the lists from the companies’ websites, then pose as telemarketers in order to obtain senior citizens’ bank account numbers. Finally, the thieves use unsigned checks to steal money from the accounts.

What caused the drop in crime in the late 1990s? Stephen Levitt on the Freakonomics Blog, Johan Lehrer at The Frontal Cortex, and Steve Sailer on iSteve evaluate a theory put forward by Rick Nevin, an economist, as described in a recent Washington Post article (8 July):

The theory offered … is that lead poisoning accounts for much of the variation in violent crime in the United States. It offers a unifying new neurochemical theory for fluctuations in the crime rate, and it is based on studies linking children’s exposure to lead with violent behavior later in their lives.

Providentia (15 July) ponders the phenomenon of copycat suicides in When Dying Becomes Fashionable.

Carnival Against Sexual Violence 27 (15 July) is up over at Abyss2Hope

Update on a previous story: Anne Reed at the Deliberations jury blog carefully takes apart Bruce Spencer’s “juries get it wrong” study (pdf) to examine whether the conclusions are warranted, and lawyer Mark Bennett adds some further explanation.

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