Credibility in the Courtroom

Credibility is defined as the quality of being convincing or believable and thus plays a major role in the verdicts of trials. The more credible a defendant is, the more likely the jury is to side in favor of them and, in turn, the less credible the defendant is, the less plausible it is that the jury will support them.

Many factors play into an individual’s labeling as credible or not. As shown in Aronson and Golden’s experiment measuring the influence of various individuals on sixth graders, race and socioeconomic status can heavily impact the individual’s degree of credibility. This is proven by racial statistics in prisons: about 38.5% of inmates in America are African-American and 33% are Hispanic, making a total of 71.5% combined. Juries may not be fully aware of their prejudices because they are so commonplace and deeply rooted in society, but these preconceptions often become evident in the courtroom. As for socioeconomic status, the evidence from Aronson and Golden’s experiment is clear, people are more likely to be influenced by a successful and accomplished individual with a high level occupation than  an individual who does menial work and has received less education. Thus the defendant’s race and socioeconomic status can have detrimental repercussions on the jury’s assumptions about motivation and likelihood of guilt.

The media also takes part in ensuring or crippling a defendant’s credibility. Even if a defendant is proven innocent, it is likely that there will remain a degree of suspicion toward the individual if the media has convinced the masses of their guilt. Prejudices and media do not always impact the outcome of a trial, but it is a definite possibility that they will.



~ by brianawil on July 19, 2010.

One Response to “Credibility in the Courtroom”

  1. Great points, Briana! If you want some extra reading about jury composition, credibility, and race, let me know. There are some great articles and books on this topic.

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