Thursday, September 10, 2015

Culture in the Courtroom: Ethnocentrism and Juror Decision-Making

The purpose of this study was to investigate whether a culturally-based argument in a non-insane automatism defense would be detrimental or beneficial to the defendant. We also examined how juror ethnocentrism might affect perceptions of such a defense. Participants read a fictional filicide homicide case in which the defendant claimed to have blacked out during the crime; we manipulated whether culture was used as an explanation for what precipitated the defendant’s blackout. We conducted path analyses to assess the role of ethnocentrism in predicting lower defendant credibility, and harsher verdict decisions. Results revealed an interaction between ethnocentrism and defense type, such that ethnocentrism related to lower perceived defendant credibility in the cultural condition, but not in the standard automatism condition. This study marks a starting point for empirically investigating the role of culture in the courtroom, which may aid scholars in discussing the merits of a standalone cultural defense.

Below:  Hypothesized relationship between ethnocentrism and three-category verdict decision via credibility, with defense type moderating the association between ethnocentrism and credibility

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By: Evelyn M. Maeder
Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Susan Yamamoto
Department of Psychology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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