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Exploring the Prejudicial Effect of Gang Evidence: Under What Conditions Will Jurors Ignore Reasonable Doubt?

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Abstract

Two experiments were conducted to examine the prejudicial effect of gang evidence on juror verdicts. In each experiment participants viewed a simulated trial where the presence of gang evidence was manipulated. Participants heard pre and post trial jury instructions and were asked to provide verdicts before and after deliberations. Each trial involved an eyewitness case where the evidence was extremely weak and reasonable doubt was clearly established. Experiment 1 involved a robbery and Experiment 2 involved a double murder. After deliberations, none of the participants voted guilty in the no-gang condition for robbery trail and only one-person voted guilty in murder trial; showing that reasonable doubt was clearly established. However, when gang evidence was presented, 10% voted guilty in robbery and 19% in the murder. Collectively, these data indicate that when sufficient character bias has established by describing the defendant as an active gang member, jurors will often ignore clearly established reasonable doubt to vote guilty. We introduce the concept of reverse nullification to describe this phenomenon.
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