The effects of defendant status on the decisions of student and community juries.

Bray, R. M., Struckman-Johnson, C., Osborne, M. D., McFarlane, J. B., & Scott, J. (1978). The effects of defendant status on the decisions of student and community juries. Social Psychology, 41, 256-260.

Six-person mock juries drawn from either a student or a community population listened to a simulated murder trial in which the social status of the two defendants was either high or low. Participants made judgments about guilt and punishment as individuals, in juries, and again after deliberations as individuals. Manipulation of social status produced a longer sentence for the high- than for the low-status defendants but did not affect verdicts of guilt. The results showed no significant differences between student and community samples in judgments of guilt or sentencing for juror or jury judgments. The data suggest that whether nonevidential factors influence judicial decision depends in part on the kind of judgment required. It was suggested that high-status defendants are most likely to receive harsher punishment than low-status defendants when they violate our expectations by misusing abilities associated with their status (e.g., medical doctors committing murder). No impact of defendant socioeconomic status or jury type (student vs. community) on jury verdicts, but longer sentences given to high-status defendants.

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