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Understanding Juror Perceptions of Forensic Evidence: Investigating the Impact of Case Context on Perceptions of Forensic Evidence Strength


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Lisa L. Smith, M.Sc., M.F.S.Soc.
University of Leicester
Department of Criminology
The Friars, 154 Upper New Walk
Leicester LE1 7QA


Abstract:  The most widely accepted model of juror decision making acknowledges the importance of both the case-specific information presented in the courtroom, as well as the prior general knowledge and beliefs held by each juror. The studies presented in this paper investigated whether mock jurors could differentiate between evidence of varying strengths in the absence of case information and then followed on to determine the influence that case context (and therefore the story model) has on judgments made about the strength of forensic DNA evidence. The results illustrated that mock jurors correctly identified various strengths of evidence when it was not presented with case information; however, the perceived strength of evidence was significantly inflated when presented in the context of a criminal case, particularly when the evidence was of a weak or ambiguous standard. These findings are discussed in relation to the story model, and the potential implications for real juries.