Pretrial publicity, judicial remedies, and jury bias.

Kramer, G. P., Kerr, N. L., & Carroll, J. S. (1990). Pretrial publicity, judicial remedies, and jury bias. Law and Human Behavior, 14, 409-438.

Although past research has established pretrial publicity’s potential to bias juror judgment, there has been less attention given to the effectiveness of judicial remedies for combatting such biases. The present study examined the effectiveness of three remedies (judicial instructions, deliberation, and continuance) in combatting the negative impact of different types of pretrial publicity. Two different types of pretrial publicity were examined: (a) factual publicity (which contained incriminating information about the defendant) and (b) emotional publicity (which contained no explicitly incriminating information, but did contain information likely to arouse negative emotions). Neither instructions nor deliberation reduced the impact of either form of publicity; in fact, deliberation strengthened publicity biases. Both social decision scheme analysis and a content analysis of deliberation suggested that prejudicial publicity increases the persuasiveness and/or lessens the persuasibility of advocates of conviction relative to advocates of acquittal. A continuance of several days between exposure to the publicity and viewing the trial served as an effective remedy for the factual publicity, but not for the emotional publicity. The article concludes by discussing the potential roles of affect and memory in juror judgment and evaluating the available remedies for pretrial publicity.

Pretrial publicity bias magnified after deliberation. Juries exposed to negative emotion-laden pretrial publicity were 3 x more likely to convict; juries exposed to factual publicity tended to convict less when trial was delayed, more when trial was immediate. Some evidence of severity bias for juries exposed to emotion-laden publicity without a strong majority. No impact of judicial instruction to ignore publicity.