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Biases in Trials Involving Defendants Charged With Multiple Offenses

NCJ Number
Journal of Applied Social Psychology Volume: 12 Issue: 6 Dated: (November/December 1982) Pages: 453-480
Date Published
28 pages
This research predicted that the probability a defendant would be convicted would increase as a function of the number of 'joined' offenses. Under Federal and State laws, a defendant who has been charged with more than one offense can be tried for all the offenses in a single 'joined' trial.
Legal theories, research on memory, and social psychological models of information integration and attribution led to three hypotheses as to why this bias might occur: confusion of evidence, accumulation of evidence, and inference of a criminal disposition. Subjects read and judged written trial summaries presented as joined or single trials. In study one, joinder resulted in higher rates of conviction and in confusion of evidence. In study two, the conviction results were replicated, and subjects judging joined trials also rated the evidence as more incriminating and made negative attributions about the defendant. These ratings were strongly related to judgments of guilt. A sequential judgment process was also found to affect jurors' judgments. Tables, footnotes, and 31 references are provided. (Author abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 1982