Monday, September 10, 2007

Studies in the News

Interesting study highlighted at Empirical Legal Studies. Head over for the post (or here at CrimProf Blog). Here’s part of the abstract to whet your whistle:

"For cases with strong evidence against defendants, learning of criminal records is not strongly associated with conviction rates. Juries appear to rely on criminal records to convict when other evidence in the case normally would not support conviction. Use of prior record evidence may therefore lead to erroneous convictions."

Binge drinking at 16, in jail at 30? Pretty good chance, according to this study. Highlights? Why, sure:

By the age of 30, those who had been habitual drinkers at the age of 16 were more likely to be problem drinkers and to use illegal drugs as adults.

Those who had been binge drinkers at the age of 16 were 60% more likely to be dependent on alcohol and 70% more likely to regularly drink heavily than those who had not been binge drinkers at the age of 16.

And they were also more likely to have a host of other problems.

They were 40% more likely to use illegal drugs and to have mental health problems.

They were 60% more likely to be homeless, and they ran almost double the risk of criminal convictions.

And they were 40% more likely to have had accidents.

They were also almost four times as likely to have been excluded from school and 30% more likely to have gained no qualifications.

Laurie Levenson weighs in on the “theater of the courtroom” over as SSRN. Here’s the abstract:

The American criminal courtroom is a theater where courtroom actors play out the guilt or innocence of the defendant for the jury to assess. Although one view of the courtroom is that of a controlled atmosphere where cases are decided based only on formal evidence, this view is undoubtedly unrealistic. Trials are affected by many factors, including the appearance and demeanor of the defendant. This article proposes an approach to deal with non-testifying demeanor evidence that occurs outside the witness box. Given the problems with having jurors rely on demeanor evidence, courts should be carefully monitoring the use of non-testifying demeanor evidence. Appropriate jury instructions should be given, including those warning jurors on proper use of such evidence. (h/t Psychology and Crime News)

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