Case studies of pre- and midtrial prejudice in criminal and civil litigation

Law Hum Behav. 2002 Feb;26(1):73-105. doi: 10.1023/a:1013881208990.


This paper presents a number of case studies involving pre- and midtrial prejudice in criminal and civil litigation. The cases reveal deficiencies in the way that prejudicial publicity has been conceptualized and operationalized in many simulation experiments. The studies reveal that potential juror prejudices that concern lawyers and judges involve more than just main effects of mass media. Pre- and midtrial prejudice also involves more general prejudices, gossip and rumor, the assertion of community normative values about justice, and conformity pressures. Four categories of prejudice recognized in American law are described and labeled: interest, specific, generic, and conformity prejudice. The case studies also reveal interesting dynamics involving "minimization" and inconsistency in jurors' self-reports of attitudes which contradict a commonly held judicial view that superficial questioning is sufficient to uncover prejudice. Despite identifying deficiencies in the simulation literature, the paper concludes that experimental research is necessary to provide answers to causal questions that case studies and field research cannot ordinarily provide.

MeSH terms

  • Civil Rights / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Criminal Law / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Mass Media / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Prejudice*
  • Public Opinion*