Skip to comments.Ugly defendants 'more likely to be found guilty than attractive ones'
Posted on 03/22/2007 9:04:23 AM PDT by null and void
Good looks could help guilty defendants dodge justice, researchers have said.
They reported that in an experiment jurors were more likely to convict suspects deemed ugly than those seen as attractive.
It is thought that the principle applies elsewhere in life, with beauty being associated with kindness, intelligence and sporting ability.
The researchers at Bath Spa University came to their conclusions after asking 96 volunteers to read a transcript of a fictitious mugging case.
Half of the participants were given a picture of an attractive suspect, the others one of a supposedly ugly defendant. The script was the same in either case.
The volunteer 'jurors' were then asked to decide whether the suspect was innocent or guilty. In the latter case they also had to decide on a sentence.
Analysis of the results revealed that attractive suspects were more likely to be acquitted, despite there being no extra evidence in their favour.
Sandie Taylor, the psychologist who conducted the study, said: "We set out to consider the influence of physical attractiveness and ethnicity of a defendant depicted in a photograph on mock jurors' decisions of verdict, extent of guilt and sentencing.
"Our findings confirm previous research on the effects of defendant characteristics - such as physical attractiveness - on the deliberations of jurors.
"Attractive defendants are, it seems, rated less harshly than homely defendants, so perhaps justice isn't blind after all.
"People who are physically attractive are assumed to be clever, successful and have more friends - it is tragic in a way."
Dr Taylor said Ted Bundy, who murdered more than 30 young women in the U.S. in the 1970s, was a good example of a criminal who tried to use his looks to his advantage.
"He was quite an attractive person physically and he had the gift of the gab and that is how he lured his victims into his car and killed them in the end," she said.
"He wanted to represent himself in court and I think a few people might have been duped by his character and how he came across.
"The hard-core forensic evidence was against him, but if that forensic evidence hadn't been there, he might well have got off, because he was quite charming and knew how to work people."
The study showed that while the jurors were swayed by attractiveness, they did not let race cloud their judgment. Black and white suspects were treated equally. When black suspects were convicted, however, they were given longer sentences.
"It is interesting that being an unattractive black defendant only had an impact on sentencing and not on a juror's verdict of guilt," Dr Taylor told the British Psychological Society's annual conference in York.
"However, it is a positive finding that neither black nor white participants showed a bias towards their own ethnic group."
She pointed out that in British law sentences are decided by judges rather than juries.
Previous research by Dr Taylor showed that gender can also be important in the courts.
Women jurors treat female suspects more harshly, especially when they think they might have used their looks to their advantage.
Men, on the other hand, tend to give attractive women the benefit of the doubt.
The phenomenon, known as the 'halo effect', is thought to extend far beyond the courtroom, with looks affecting an individual's exam marks, job prospects and even ability to make friends.
"People are constantly making judgments of other people," added Dr Taylor. "That is the way we make sense of a socially chaotic world - we use stereotypes to try to make sense of it all."
They needed a study to figure that out?
They have figured out the way it works with teachers!
CROWD: A witch! A witch! A witch! We've got a witch! A witch!
VILLAGER #1: We have found a witch, might we burn her?
CROWD: Burn her! Burn!
BEDEMIR: How do you know she is a witch?
VILLAGER #2: She looks like one.
BEDEMIR: Bring her forward.
WITCH: I'm not a witch. I'm not a witch.
BEDEMIR: But you are dressed as one.
WITCH: They dressed me up like this.
CROWD: No, we didn't... no.
WITCH: And this isn't my nose, it's a false one.
VILLAGER #1: Well, we did do the nose.
BEDEMIR: The nose?
VILLAGER #1: And the hat -- but she is a witch!
CROWD: Burn her! Witch! Witch! Burn her!
BEDEMIR: Did you dress her up like this?
CROWD: No, no... no ... yes. Yes, yes, a bit, a bit.
VILLAGER #1: She has got a wart.
BEDEMIR: What makes you think she is a witch?
VILLAGER #3: Well, she turned me into a newt.
BEDEMIR: A newt?
VILLAGER #3: I got better.
Your in real trouble if you're fugly.
I love Monty Python.
"Bath Spa University" who the h3ll goes to a school named that?
Hey Pissant - Good to see you. I knew you'd laugh.
I do, too :) And I will never understand why just the prospect of facing a "jury of one's peers" isn't enough to keep more folks on the straight and narrow.
What, justice is not blind?
There is a good argument to be made that a defendant should sit behind a one-way mirror, and even that their voice should be scrambled, to force the jury to consider the facts and evidence as presented to them; instead of churning out a decision based on the appearance of the accused.
It seems to be an almost impossible demand to ask a jury to disregard appearance, even though it almost never has a bearing on the case.
Especially significant is that it has been *proven* that juries are *fairer* if they can't see the defendant, and only "tradition", and the desire of lawyers to generate unfair sympathy or prejudice keeps the exhibition of defendants as a court standard.
Captain OBVIOUS alert!!!!
In fact this was in an OMNI magazine article in the 1980's!!!! (no longer published)
Judge Kilbraken: Blimey! I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition.
I'll bet a whole lot of money helps just as much as being pretty. And if you've got both...
I think its crap. I've been on juries before and I've never heard any jurors arguing anything except the facts in the case.
I've been on juries before too and I know for a fact that people oftentimes don't have a clue about how or why they come to decisions. They often call it "gut" feelings and an ugly person can really twist one's gut. :-)
Just the sight of Debra Lafave is so intimidating.
Well I guess I'm screwed!
Of course, I have a GREAT personality! :-)
Kids who want to party hardy.
There's also studies that show that jurors tend to believe attractive witnesses more than ugly ones, thin ones more than fat ones, and tall ones more than short ones.
It's in the city of Bath, England, which has mineral baths and spas. It has been a resort since Roman times. A very cool, er warm, place to visit.
Fine..show me someone convicted for being ugly. People do have gut feelings about testimony but that doesn't mean beauty has anything to do with it. Actually I think it's more probable that attractive people are more likely to be able to afford a good lawyer and that's the main thing.
I took my Masters there, after graduating from Slippery Rock.
It's not so much a matter of what they say, or even think, it's what they do.
If this is true, then how does one explain Michael Jackson?
Nobody gets convicted for being ugly... they get convicted because juries don't believe them and that they "didn't show remorse" the way a beautiful people shows remorse (whatever that really means). And who is believed less but someone who is ugly? When was the last time you believed Helen Thomas for instance? As for the beautiful person discount for better lawyers, sadly I never received that discount so I must be guilty. :-)
You misread. I didn't say anything about a discount.
Just watched that with my kids. They liked the Black Knight.
I think it considerably more subtle than that, but still valid. People tend to sympathize with those they can identify with, and they all like to think they're attractive.
If there is such a bias I suspect it is more along the lines of whether a person looks respectable or not rather than beautiful or not.
Clean people with crinkly skin? (Just a surmise.)
Time to ban Beauty
If it didn't affect me, personally, I'd druther ban Ugly.
"And I will never understand why just the prospect of facing a "jury of one's peers" isn't enough to keep more folks on the straight and narrow."
Nationwide, only about 2.5% of all felony cases ever make it to jury trial. Almost all the rest are resolved by plea bargain, often with prison being part of the plea deal. Facing a jury of one's peers is a frightening prospect. Hardly any criminal defendants want to do it. Even cases where one is innocent of all or part of the charges levied against him, facing a jury is a big roll of the dice that is frightening enough to make a fairly reasonable plea offer seem not so bad, even if taking it means one will have to plead guilty or no contest to things he did not do. In almost every case where plea offers are made the final offers at least will have somewhat of a "plea discount," meaning the defendant will get significantly less punishment than the prosecutor believes he'll be able to get from the judge or jury if the case proceeds to trial. The plea discount in weaker cases is almost always going to be a lot more significant than it would be in an open and shut case, and there is no doubt in my mind that occasionally a completely innocent defendant will take a really "good" offer rather than face a jury. More often than that one who is guilty of some of what he is charged with but not all of it, or who may be overcharged (guilty of a lesser crime but not of the more serious charge filed against him), will go ahead and plead to everything he charged with rather than face a jury. People are afraid of jury trials...but of course that's obviously not enough to stop deviants from deviating from the laws in the first place.
"Bath Spa University" who the h3ll goes to a school named that?"
==How do you explain the results of the study, then?
Personally I don't believe that such experiments reflect the real world. If the experiment were repeated on "jurors" who believed they were involved in real trials I would also like to make sure things such as the way the defendents were dressed and the way they behaved was held constant.
you completely missed the point of the story.....
no one says that jurors sit there and talk looks....but they subconciously give the benefit of the doubt to the beautiful people, and the nod of suspicion to the not so beautiful.....