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The importance of forensic evidence for decisions on criminal guilt

Published onMar 01, 2021
The importance of forensic evidence for decisions on criminal guilt
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The importance of forensic evidence for decisions on criminal guilt
Description

Recent studies have found that the general public perceives forensic evidence to be relatively inaccurate and to involve high levels of human judgement. This study examines how important the general public finds forensic evidence by comparing decisions on guilt and punishment in criminal cases that involve forensic versus eyewitness testimony evidence and examining whether a CSI effect exists. Specifically, this experimental survey study utilized a 2 (crime type: murder or rape) × 4 (evidence type: DNA, fingerprint, victim eyewitness testimony, or bystander eyewitness testimony) − 1 (no victim testimony for murder scenario) design, yielding seven vignettes scenarios to which participants were randomly assigned. Results indicate that forensic evidence was associated with more guilty verdicts and higher confidence in a guilty verdict. Forensic evidence did not change the expected sentence length and did not generally affect the ideal sentence length. However, for rape, respondents believed that the defendant should receive a longer sentence when forensic evidence was presented but forensic evidence did not alter likely sentence that respondents expected the defendant to receive. The results of this study did not support a CSI effect. Overall, this study suggests that forensic evidence – particularly DNA – has a stronger influence during the verdict stage than the sentencing stage.

 

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