Date of Degree

5-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Psychology

Advisor(s)

Steven D. Penrod

Subject Categories

Psychology | Social Psychology

Keywords

courtroom safeguards; eyewitness identification; judicial instructions; juror decision making

Abstract

Recently, the New Jersey Supreme Court determined that jurors may not be able to effectively evaluate eyewitness evidence (New Jersey v. Henderson, 2011). Research generally supports this contention, finding that jurors do not take into account factors surrounding the commission of the crime and identification when determining the reliability of an identification (Devenport et al., 1997). Courts have implemented various safeguards to assist jurors in evaluating eyewitness evidence, including judicial instructions and expert testimony. The New Jersey Supreme Court proposed the use of judicial instructions and suggested their use would reduce the need for expert testimony. The current studies tested the efficacy of various forms of Henderson instructions and expert testimony. In the first study, jurors were sensitive to the quality of police practices on their own. Expert testimony resulted in skepticism by reducing convictions regardless of eyewitness identification quality. No version of Henderson instructions sensitized jurors to the quality of witnessing and identification conditions. Therefore, I conducted a follow up study to examine modifications to the Henderson instructions. The modified instructions incorporated features from the I-I-Eye instructions (Pawlenko et al., 2013), such as a condensed format, prompts designed to draw jurors' attention to how each eyewitness factor impacts identification accuracy, and making the instructions general in nature and not tailored to the facts of the case. I also examined whether having jurors evaluate the eyewitness evidence through the use of interrogatories would influence their verdict decision. The modified version of Henderson sensitized jurors to the quality of witnessing conditions compared to the original Henderson instructions. This effect occurred regardless of whether jurors evaluated the evidence before or after determining a verdict. These results suggest the original Henderson instructions are having little impact on jurors' decisions. Thus, courts may wish to delay implementation of these instructions until further research can establish their effectiveness.

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