The response of mock jurors to psychological testimony presented in two adversarial trials conducted by practicing attorneys

Stacey Moody McHenry, Fordham University

Abstract

Two mock trials incorporating unscripted testimony of psychologists and psychiatrists were conducted by practicing attorneys to investigate how jurors respond to expert psychological testimony. To support the continued admissibility of psychological expert testimony in state and federal trials under Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, community and student participants were evaluated for their abilities to understand psychological expert testimony on the topic of suicide presented in live and videotaped trial formats. The helpfulness of expert testimony, within the meaning of Rule 702, was considered both subjectively, through examination of the jurors' ratings of the experts, and objectively, through examination of the jurors' use of the expert testimony during deliberations. Relationships between the demographic characteristics, pretrial attitudes, and witness ratings of the jurors and the individual verdicts rendered by the jurors were explored. Attorneys' abilities to predict the most helpful, important, and persuasive aspects of the trial to the jurors were explored also. The success of the authentic mock trial design was defined as the extent to which the study replicated robust findings from the mock trial literature. ^ Jurors in the live and videotaped trial conditions demonstrated that they were able to understand psychological expert testimony. Consistent with understanding the testimony, jurors relied more on the helpfulness, intelligence, honesty, attractiveness, and assertiveness of the experts than the experts' credentials in making their decisions. Jurors found the expert testimony helpful, but they did not discuss the expert testimony as much as was predicted during deliberations. Attorneys were most accurate in predicting the aspects of trial that would be helpful to the jurors prior to the trials, consistent with when predictions regarding the helpfulness of expert testimony are made by attorneys in authentic trials. Anticipated differences between the live and videotaped conditions of the trial were not detected. However, robust findings from the mock trial literature were replicated, supporting the success of the authentic mock trial design. ^

Subject Area

Law|Psychology, Social

Recommended Citation

Stacey Moody McHenry, "The response of mock jurors to psychological testimony presented in two adversarial trials conducted by practicing attorneys" (January 1, 2002). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI3037224.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI3037224

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