Friday, January 26, 2007

Pscyhology of Circumstantial Evidence

Here's a law review article that caught my eye: Kevin Jon HellerThe Cognitive Psychology of Circumstantial Evidence, 105 Mich. L. Rev. 241 (Nov. 2006).

From the abstract:

Empirical research indicates that jurors routinely undervalue circumstantial evidence (DNA, fingerprints, and the like) and overvalue direct evidence (eyewitness identifications and confessions) when making verdict choices, even though false-conviction statistics indicate that the former is normally more probative and more reliable than the latter.

The traditional explanation * * * is that jurors simply do not understand circumstantial
evidence and thus routinely underestimate its effect on the objective probability of the defendant’s guilt. That may be true in some situations, but it fails to account for * * * the puzzling fact that jurors are likely to acquit in a circumstantial case even when they know the objective probability of the defendant’s guilt is sufficient to convict.

This Article attempts to explain why jurors find circumstantial evidence so psychologically troubling.

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