The Effect of Violence Risk Education on Juror Perception of Violence




Hoeffner, Camden

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The study of violence risk assessments has evolved substantially over the past several decades. As the research has increased, clinicians’ abilities to assess a person’s propensity for future risk has grown substantially, and consequently, so has the need for empirical research regarding how to best communicate the results of these assessments to jurors. The present study examined whether providing jurors with additional information about expert testimony, such as education about the crime statistics that are often presented during trials, is an effective means of mediating negative perceptions of a defendant. Participants (N = 199) were asked to assume the roles of jury members and provided a de-identified case vignette about a defendant in a criminal trial. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: (1) No Explanation (control group), (2) Written Narrative Explanation, and (3) Written Narrative and Visual Explanation. They were then instructed to judge the defendant’s risk of violence, dangerousness, sentencing, and overall perception of the defendant based on the vignette and the education they received. The results of this study indicate that added education about statistics and base rates does not help mitigate negative juror perception of defendant risk.