Two experiments were conducted to investigate how sources of information can bias the judicial process. Experiment 1 investigated the effects of photographs of victims’ injury, and of vivid verbal victim injury description, on the evaluation and sentencing of a defendant in a mock criminal trial. The participants were presented with five different crime accounts: (a) vandalism, (b) arson, (c) child abuse, (d) child molestation, and (e) homicide, all committed by male perpetrators, and were asked to evaluate the trustworthiness, culpability, aggressiveness, guilt, and other crime-relevant personality traits of the defendant, and to set imprisonment sentences. Results of Experiment 1 showed that exposure to photographs of crime victim injuries as well as vivid crime descriptions had only weak and non-significant effects on defendant evaluations, but imprisonment terms tended to be longer in the Photo condition than in the No photo condition. To further investigate the possible effects of photographic information on judicial processes for different crimes (child molestation, child abuse, homicide), Experiment 2 was conducted with legal practitioners (judges, members of Swedish juries, law students, counsels for the defence, prosecutors, police officers) as evaluators. Results showed three tendencies: (a) a ‘‘same-sex penalty effect’’: sentencing evaluators (judges, jurors) evaluated a defendant of the same gender as the evaluator, more harshly than one of the opposite gender, (b) a ‘‘male penalty effect’’: non-sentencing evaluators (police officers, counsels for the defence, prosecutors, and law students) evaluated and judged a male defendant more harshly than a female, and (c) for female non-sentencing evaluators, the male penalty effect was enhanced for the more attractive defendants. Overall, the results suggest that defendant gender, defendant appearance, evaluator gender, and evaluator profession can affect the outcome of a criminal trial.
2010. Vol. 17, no 2, 304-324 p.