Dateline: August, 2011, Issue 1

Are Spanish-speaking witnesses more credible to Spanish-speaking jurors?

Jurors prefer that witnesses speak in jurors' predominant language. Witnesses who testify in a foreign language are often perceived to be less credible than witnesses who testify in English. Do jurors who speak the language of a non-English speaking witness also judge that non-English speaking witness to be less credible?

Hosch and colleagues (1996) explored jurors' verdicts in an aggravated robbery case where the complaining witness's testimony was either presented in English, or presented in Spanish and then interpreted into English. Jurors were divided into two groups based on their English and Spanish language dominance.

When the complaining witness testified in a juror's non-dominant language, the witness was perceived as less believable and the juror was less likely to convict the defendant:

Spanish-speaking witnesses are more credible to Spanish-speaking jurors, and are less credible to jurors who do not speak Spanish.

Source Hosch, H.M., Carrillo, V., Prospero, M., Ponder, B.J., & Mendoza, N.A. (1996, February). Non-felony criminal cases adjudicated in El Paso County, Texas, between January 1988 and December 1989. Unpublished raw data. University of Texas-El Paso, Center for Law and Human Behavior, El Paso TX. Cited in: Mendoza, N.A., Hosch, H.M., Ponder, B.J., & Carillo, V. (2000). Well….ah…: Hesitations and hedges as an influence on jurors' decisions. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 30, pp. 2610-2621.