Evaluation of Forensic Evidence by Potential Jurors
Olivia Nasatir ’20, Oxnard, California
Majors: Psychology; History
Minor: Law and Social Justice
The primary purpose of this study was to examine how potential jurors rate the accuracy of forensic evidence. The secondary purpose was to identity which psychosocial factors, if any, predict potential jurors’ views of forensic evidence.
To explore these questions, I recruited 235 participants across the United States using Mechanical Turk, an on-line research platform. Only those qualified to serve as actual jurors were able to participate (at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen). Each participant responded to a questionnaire that included questions asking how they would rate the accuracy of specific types of forensic evidence, two questions about their trust in science and trust in police, the Belief in Science Scale (Farias, Newheiser, Kahane, & Toledo, 2013), the Perceptions of Police Scale (Nadal & Davidoff, 2015), the Very Short Authoritarianism Scale (Bizumic & Duckitt, 2018), a question about their political ideology, and a series of questions about demographic characteristics.
I discovered that potential jurors, as a group, rated DNA evidence as the most accurate type of evidence (87.1% accurate). The lowest rated evidence was eyewitness testimony from a bystander (52.7% accurate). In descending order of accuracy, potential jurors rated the evidence as follows: DNA evidence, videotape surveillance, fingerprint evidence, hair and fiber evidence, alcohol and drug tests, suspect confession, eyewitness testimony by a police officer, eyewitness testimony by a victim, polygraph test, and eyewitness testimony from a bystander.
Somewhat unexpectedly, one’s belief in science, perceptions of police, authoritarianism, and political ideology did not predict how potential jurors rated the accuracy of forensic evidence. However, my data analysis did reveal other patterns within the data. I will discuss the relationships between jurors’ demographic characteristics and their responses to specific scales in my presentation.