Forensic Psychology Review
Lecture 6: Jury Decision making
The right to a jury: they are only available for indictable offenses. But hybrid offenses may lead
to a jury trial also.
Functions of the Jury:
1. Decide facts from trial evidence – to determine what happened; they’re not supposed to use
facts from publicity or other biases.
2. Educate the citizens (jurors) about our legal system.
3. Community consciousness – to reflect the ideas and beliefs of the community.
Jury Nullification: where the jury decides to ignore the law when making their decisions,
Example is Morgentaler and Euthanasia.
4. Do not sentence, juries do not sentence people, they merely decide guilt.
Characteristics of a Jury:
1. Representativeness: we’re ideally trying to represent the demographics of the population
(where the crime occurred) by picking their names from the phone book or voter’s list.
o Random selection from community
o Representative of community
o Why this is an ideal: certain segments will be excluded (ex. no phone or not a voter);
politicians, lawyers, judges, police officers, doctors, law students and emergency personnel
cannot be on a jury. We’re also limited in how representative we can be by only having 12
o Prejudice (attitudinal) – Canadian Justice System assumes that attitudinal biases exist. This is
step 1, the attitude.
o Discrimination (behavioural) – CJS assumes that we can put safeguards in place to prevent our
prejudices from turning into discrimination. Research says those safeguards don’t work. This is
step 2, the behavioral manifestation of the attitude. Sources of Juror Bias:
Specific Prejudice: where you have a specific attitude about the specific case in question.
Example: a prejudice against the victim or defendant (can be because of media). Pickton.
Interest Prejudice: where you have a direct interest in the case.
Example: jury is related to victim or defendant; business interests.
Normative Prejudice: where you have a community sentiment that affects their opinion of the
case. Example: Liverpool football player raped a girl – when the case was coming to a close,
people sent death threats to the jury (they ruled Not Guilty).
Generic Prejudice: where you have beliefs about groups of people or classes of crime.
Example: jury is biased against abortion or against race, or rapists or child molesters as a group.
Tools to limit prejudice and encourage impartiality: In Canada
Limits on pre-trial publicity: though we can still access news from the rest of the world.
Limits on discussions by jurors: they cannot talk about their deliberations with anyone before
or after the case. Otherwise they will get into a lot of trouble. In the US this is ok to talk about.
12 person juries: this helps to reduce bias. Unanimous verdicts.
Reminders about sworn oaths. Reminded to ignore any publicity and on known trial evidence.
Do safeguards make a difference? (Kramer et al.)
Three groups were provided different information about the trial beforehand (control group –
just information; emotionally-biased – offender has a hit-and-run on a young girl; factually-
biased – offender has a previous charge) Half of each group received the biasing information
immediately or 12 days before they watch the video. Half of the 6 different groups were told to
ignore the information they received before the video. The people presented with biasing info
led to more guilty verdicts. Instructions to ignore pre-trial publicity did not have an impact of
Three Solutions to Overcoming Partiality:
1. Adjournment: used if there is evidence that negative attitudes are present among juries. Trial
will be postponed until a later date, which we assume reduces the bias. The delay in time may
also cause people to forget information.
2. Change of Venue: trial can be moved to a different location in order to decrease the likelihood
of biases. 3. Challenge for Cause: where you determine if potential jury members have a bias by having
them fill out standard questionnaires. In Canada, you’re only allowed to ask relevant questions
about the case.
4. Preemptory challenges: questions are not asked, they dismiss jury members based on
information they already have access to such as name, gender, race.
Two Approaches to jury selection:
1. Broad attitudes and traits: there exist broad attitudes and traits in people that
make them more eligible to sit on a certain case and this is done through a scale
where the answers reveal which traits you possess. The juror bias scale,
determines whether you are biased towards the defense or the prosecutor or if
you are impartial.
2. A case specific approach: finding which people possess certain attitudes that will
favor your agenda in the case if you are on the defense side of the court. You
would develop a survey based on that specific case to determine these traits.
The Harrisburg seven: priests accused of blowing shit in order to protest against
the war in Vietnam. The first jury was changed because they were too old
compared to the community where this took place.
Models of Jury: Two main types
Mathematical model: Precise and testable. Not realistic or intuitively appealing.
Example: Kassin and Wrightsman: proposed that the verdict is the result of two different
judgments that juries make:
1. Likely hood of commission: the likely that the defendant committed the crime based on
evidence heard at the trial. DNA evidence is really strong, also no alibi, moves you
further towards the guilty side. Then a witness says that the defendant is innocent
which brings the juror back down the scale towards the innocent side verdict.
2. Threshold of reasonable doubt: the level of doubt that has to be exceeded in order to
come back with a guilty verdict. You have to more sure that he did it rather than didn’t.
You set for yourself a threshold such as 90%. This means that you have to be 90% sure
that they are guilty. When the LOC placement on the scale exceeds the LRD then you
will have a guilty verdict. Innocent----------O---LOC------TRD--------Guilty, this is an
example of an innocent verdict.
3. Jury members don’t actually do this kind of work though. Explanation based models: these are realistic. But not precise or testable.
Example: the story model. Pennington and Hastie.
• Jurors organize the information presented at trial into a story. They create a narrative.
• Judge provides the jurors with relevant law and verdict options.
• Jurors find the best fit between story and verdict options.
• This is difficult to test but this is more realistic than the mathematical model.
- Pre-trial instructions to jurors: jurors do not understand or apply judge’s
instructions correctly. 4 solutions were: rewriting instructions, written copy of
instructions, providing pre- and post-evidence instructions, and allowing lawyers
to clarify legal instruction.
- Juror note taking: disadvantages include the influence of those who took notes
over the ones who did not take notes. And the ones who tool notes may be
taken more seriously is issues arise. Note taking does not have an impact on the
remembering of evidence.
- Juror question asking: this does not affect jury understanding for better or
worse based on research.
Size of the jury: the research suggests that we are doing it right in Canada. 12 people is a good
Summary: Appreciate the characteristics of the ideal jury, and the reasons why this may not
turn out like that such as the representativeness of the community and impartiality, and basing
decisions on trial evidence only. Be able to list, describe and provide examples of the types of
juror biases. Be aware of the various methods used to increase impartiality and reduce
prejudice such as change of venue, challenge for cause, and adjournment. Be able to describe
jury selection methods such as the case-specific approach or the broad traits (finding traits that
favor the defense or the prosecution) and attitudes approach. Know the differences between
the US and Canada, for example, in Canada we can’t interview jurors after the trial is over, but
we can do observational studies, simulation studies, and experimental studies. Be aware about
the mathematical model and the explanation/story based model (this one in the textbook).
Know the issues around the comprehension aids, these can be read about in the book, such as
note taking question asking. This chapter is important make sure to read it. Lecture 7: Fitness to stand trial/Criminal responsibility
Definitions of Fitness: an assessment of the current mental condition of the accused. In order
to be found guilty, prosecutors must establish actus Reus(a wrongful deed) and mens
rea (criminal intent).
Goal of the assessment: to determine whether it interferes with your ability to perform legal
R v Pritchard: to determine whether you currently suffer from a deficit:
o Can the accused assist in their own defense?
o Do they understand their role in the proceedings?
o Do they understand the nature of the proceedings?
Simply the presence of mental illness is not sufficient because the illness has to impede your
ability in those ways above. It has to impact you in those three ways.
Assessment Instruments: if fit, the trial will continue; if unfit, a formal assessment will take
place (this can take between 5 to 30 days) and will typically be conducted by a psychiatrist
(except in Canada, where you have to be a medical practitioner but a psychologist can
assist). Two common procedures to test fitness:
1. FIT-R (Fitness Interview Test Revised): (Canada) a semi-structured interview to determine if you
suffer from a mental disorder.
o It assesses 3 psychological abilities:
Understanding of proceedings (i.e. factual knowledge about the proceedings like the severity of
Understanding of consequences (i.e. appreciation of the role you play)
Communicative with counsel (i.e. the ability to participate in your defence)
o Results: does seem to distinguish between those that have mental disorders that would render
them unfit to stand trial than those that do not.
2. MacCAT-CA: (USA) a structured interview to determine if you’re fit to stand trial and plead
guilty. They give senarios to the individual and they ask questions to make sure that the person
understands the legally appropriate aspect of the event.
o Questions are grouped into 3 categories:
Understanding of legal system Reasoning ability
Understanding of own legal situation
Treatment: the goal is to treat the person so that they become fit to stand trial.
• Medication is the primary form of treatment (sometimes requiring a treatment order)
• If individual remains unfit they are either detained in a hospital or conditionally
• Absolute Discharge: a defendant may be given an absolute discharge if they meet 3
• Unlikely to ever become fit.
• Does not pose a significant threat to society.
• A stay of proceedings is in the interest of the proper administration of justice.
• He targeted universities and airliners; he was found fit, pled guilty and went to jail.
Definitions of Criminal Responsibility (Insanity): insanity is a legal conceptnot a medical or
psychological one; definition of insanity may vary by jurisdiction – not being of sound mind,
mentally deranged and irrational; retrospective assessment has to be conducted of the state of
mind when the crime happened.EXAM**
1. N’Naghten Standard (Cognitive): (USA) at the time of the crime, you must suffer from a defect
of reason and you must not know the nature of the act or understand that it was wrong.
2. Irresistible Impulse Test (Volitional): (USA) accused could have the cognitive knowledge of
what is right or wrong but if their illness results in an inability to control behavior they are still
3. ALI Standard (Cognitive/Volitional): (USA) not responsible if the accused lacks the capacity to
appreciate the criminality of the act or to conform their conduct to the requirements of the
4. Guilty But Mentally Ill (GBMI): (USA) mentally ill but also guilty of the crime; accused are
provided treatment until they are declared sane – prison for same term as other offenders.
5. NCRMD (Not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder) (R v. Swain): o (Canada) not legally responsible while suffering a disorder that renders you incapable of
appreciating the nature of the act or incapable of knowing that the act was wrong (similar to
o A defendant should only be found NCRMD if they pose a criminal threat to the public;
otherwise, they should be granted an absolute discharge.
Review Boards: legal bodies mandated to oversee the case and disposition of defendants found
unfit and/or NCRMD. (Must review once a year). Assessment of Responsibility: only the
defence can raise the issue, unless the verdict of guilty has been handed down. Responsibility is
assessed using an assessment instrument; can take between 30 and 60 days for assessment
orders. We assess responsibility with two tests:
1. R-CRAS (Rogers Criminal Assessment Scales): a clinician uses information from this assessment
to identify insanity through 5 scales:
-Organicity (brain issues);
-Behavioural control; and
-Reliability of the report (ex. lying or malingering), coaching is involved.
2. MSE: (USA) identifies non-insanity through 3 key issues:
a. General psychological history;
b. Mental state at the time of offence; and
c. Current mental status.
• Forensic hospital or absolute or conditional discharge
• Medication is the primary form of treatment
• If sent to a forensic hospital the disposition time will be capped
Answers: Slightly lower rates of recidivism of NGRI (not guilty by reason of insanity) acquittees compared
to matched felons.
Beyond found NGRI results in more detainment time than if you were found guilty.
Most crimes committed by NGRI are normally drug offences.
The use of different insanity standards does not have an effect on the verdicts of jurors.
Summary- Need to be able to define fitness (current mental status) and criminal
responsibility (previous mental status at the time of the crime), know what fitness is in a
Canadian context. Know what the standard is for Criminal Responsibility. There will be
questions that require you to know the difference between responsibility and fitness. Have
knowledge about the assessment instruments, only the ones in the lecture ( FIT-R and the
MacCAT-CA) , no the book. Understand the various issues around treatment for fitness and
responsibility (RCRAS, and MSE). Understand the procedure for NCRMD, how is it assessed,
how long the assessment orders are, when prosecutors are allowed to raise the issue, and
other procedural issues.
Lecture 8- Criminal sentencing and Offender treatment
Sentencing: an imposition of a legal sanction on persons convicted of an offence (essentially,
the consequences you face as a result of a crime committed)
Here are 6 common goals of sentencing:
Specific Deterrence: reducing the probability that an offender will reoffend in the future.
General Deterrence: reducing the probability that members of society will reoffend in the
2. Denounce: to say that we don’t approve of a specific behavior.
3. Assist: to assist the offender with rehabilitation.
4. Reparations: to pay back the money or society.
5. Responsibility: to help promote responsibility in the accused.
6. Separate: remove this person from society to protect them and society.
Issues: sentences can conflict with many goals and judges may give different sentences for
Canada is moving towards a more restorative justice system to get more offenders back in the
community – research suggests this is better than sending them to prison. These 5 principles are meant to guide the sentencing decisions:
1. Gravity: a sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence.
2. Liberty: a sentence should not deprive the offender of liberty if less restrictive sanctions are
3. Adjusted: mitigating and aggravating factors should be taken into account.
4. Similarity: sentences should be similar for similar offenders, offences and under similar
5. Consecutive: combined consecutive sentences should not be too harsh.
Principles of sentencing help the court to achieve the most appropriate sentences for
offenders, but the Goals of sentencing are designed to achieve certain goals through the
sentencing of offenders. ***EXAM*** asking us to distinguish between principles and goals
In order of least restrictive to most restrictive, here are some sentencing options (these are
Discharge: despite being guilty, the accused is not convicted of the offence.
o Absolute: where the court releases the accused with no conditions and no record.
o Conditional: must follow certain rules in the community for a specific period of time for the
discharge to be absolute.
Probation: offenders released into the community with restrictions.
Reparation: where accused pays the victim back.
Fines (to the court): where the accused pays the court back (most common in Canada); if you
fail to pay, you go to jail (this accounts for the disproportionately high number of aboriginal
people that are in jail for not paying for fines).
Conditional Sentences: a prison sentence served in the community (ex. on the weekends).
Imprisonment: last resort.
There are a lot more aboriginal people serving prison sentences for failing to pay fines than
Are punishment strategies effective? These usually result in higher rates of recidivism. The
strategies above are an example of this. They do not work if our goal is to reduce reoffending.
SWIFT, CERTAIN, AND SEVERE PUNISHMENT. SentencingDisparity
This is currently the most important part of the Justice System, in terms of the court side of
Sentencing Disparity: variations in sentencing severity for similar crimes committed under
There are two major types of disparity:
1. Warranted Sentence Disparity: disparities that result based on warranted differences between
2. Unwarranted Sentence Disparity: disparities based on factors outside of our control; there are
2 types. Where the same circumstances end up in two different sentence severities with two
o Systematic Disparity: predictable, stable, sustained differences between say, judges, such as a
pre-existing bias, philosophy on crime, experience of judges, etc.
o Unsystematic Disparity: unpredictable (random) factors that affect sentences, such as a judge
having a bad day, personal issues, and priming circumstances. The disparity that exists in the
same judge over time.
In order to study these, we can use two types of studies:
1. Simulations: (lab studies) ex. easy to control variables but not high in external validity.
o Example: Judges were given different crime circumstances and asked to decide what sentence
to give: Fight after a car accident, grabbed a bag from an old lady, murdered and rape an 11-
year old girl.
o Results: minor and major crimes have very little variation but the mid-range crimes have a huge
range of variation. The sentences varied over time and between judges and were mostly due to
2. Sentencing Statistics: (field studies) ex. a researcher examined the sentencing differences
between Ontario and BC; has high external validity but lower internal validity – hard to pinpoint
why the variation exists.
• Public opinion polls. Advantages- easiest to get access to large samples of Canadians.
Disadvantages- the attitudes you are asking about are fairly general, but you don’t
really know the specifics behind their answer.
• Focus groups. Advantages- we can get into knowing your attitudes. Disadvantage-
very low amount of people 6-8 people.
• Experimental research. Advantages- manipulation. Major findings of public polls: they believe that offender are sentenced too lightly, they
underestimate the severity of sentences. They also have little confidence in the CJS. Canadians
support a range of alternative sentencing practices, such as conditional or community
Summary: Distinguish between the goals and principles of sentencing. Understand the various
sentencing options. Understand the different types of disparity (Warranted vs Unwar