Date of Degree
Margaret B. Kovera
Psychology and Law
Whether judges and attorneys are able to detect bias among potential jurors (venirepersons) is a pivotal concern in highly publicized cases in which most of the jury pool has been exposed to pretrial publicity (PTP). The current dissertation research addressed 1) whether attorneys and judges can accurately gauge differences in PTP exposure/bias among potential jurors, 2) how potential jurors' (venirepersons) motivations to serve or not serve on a jury affect attorneys' and judges' abilities to detect bias, and 3) whether withholding instructions on the importance of juror impartiality in favor of urging honesty can reduce venirepersons' abilities to tailor voir dire responses to their specific motivations. In the first phase, I manipulated the amount of negative PTP presented to mock venirepersons and subsequently measured their bias against the defendant. Mock venirepersons were then motivated to be impaneled on or excused from a jury before participating in a simulated voir dire. A mock judge instructed venirepersons before questioning either on the importance of impartiality among ideal jurors (which is standard) or the importance of honesty and a variety of opinions among ideal jurors. Finally, venirepersons watched a videotaped trial and rendered verdicts. Venirepersons motivated to get off the jury subsequently rendered more guilty verdicts than those motivated to get on the jury, and PTP exposure interacted with venireperson motivation such that venirepersons motivated to get on the jury who were exposed to excessive PTP shifted toward acquittal as compared to the other groups. Implicit associations between the defendant and guilt increased with the level of PTP exposure, and source-memory errors correlated with verdicts and guilt ratings. In the second phase, attorneys and judges viewed videos of the voir dires to gauge whether they 1) accurately judged the extent of venirepersons' exposure to PTP and their pretrial prejudice and 2) effectively used causal challenges and peremptory strikes to eliminate unfavorable and/or biased venirepersons. Attorneys and judges consistently struck (or allowed strikes) and rated as more biased venirepersons who were motivated to escape jury service, and venireperson motivation and judicial instruction interacted such that motivated venirepersons were more likely to succeed in getting on or off the jury after receiving impartiality versus honesty instructions. The current findings revealed a new potential measure of PTP bias (the IAT) and provided insight into how venirepersons' motivations and impression management tactics influence judges' and attorneys' decisions during voir dire
Zimmerman, David, "Voir Dire Efficacy In Highly Publicized Criminal Cases" (2014). CUNY Academic Works.