A Fair And Public Hearing By An Independent And Impartial Tribunal: Does Physical Appearance Of A Defendant Influence Juridical Judgement?

2935 words - 12 pages

From the findings, it can be concluded that the results do support the hypothesis that mock jurors place a harsher sentence on the unattractive defendant in the manslaughter case. Whereas, it was not seen as significant on the unattractive defendant in the theft case, this finding is counterintuitive to the hypothesis however, one can speculate that being attractive may be more beneficial to those that are on trial for a serious crime. The implications here could be down to the serious consequences to the defendant’s life if they found guilty for manslaughter, when in actual fact it may not be entirely their fault. Whereas, with the theft case there was no doubt in the jurors mind that that individual was responsible for the consequences of their crime, due to being seen on Closed Circuit Television. With the legal system being highly complicated and complex, and with the limited knowledge the jurors hold about the system, maybe it is this that could explain that people were more likely to place a lesser sentence on those in the manslaughter case. But this might not be the only reason for this difference, as the unattractive manslaughter-unattractive theft comparison did not yield significant results.
As Baldwin and McConville (1979) pointed out that juries easily fall victim to stereotypes, manipulation and outside influences and fails in almost all of its goals, the results found here, and previous research further develops this theory. From the concerning results found, there is evidence that attractiveness does have an unwanted effect due to the internal biases of jurors. As a part of the study, participants were asked to answer short questions if they believed there was a criminal face and 10 out of the 32 participants did believe that there is a criminal face by answering yes to the question “do you think it is possible to have a ‘criminal face’?”. This is clear evidence that some people do believe there is a criminal face and that they use stereotypes to decide upon this. From one person’s answer in the study where they placed one of the longest sentences on the unattractive defendant in the manslaughter case, they said:
“I think there are numerous stereotypes of what a ‘criminal face’ looks like. I think this is a criminal face as his eyes are hidden and he has a ‘creepy’ grin making him look suspicious.”
This participant is showing the influence stereotypes had over their judgement of the crime and the defendant. They show that they do believe in stereotypes and that this man falls into that category which further predisposed them to placing a harsher sentence. Therefore, Baldwin and McConville (1979) did have a valid point and that juries do easily fall victim to stereotypes and how can they not when it is human nature? For humans it is very difficult to hold unconditional positive regard (Rodgers, 1957) for someone who they do not know and are up in court for such crimes, once their first impressions are made, it...

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