Dateline: June, 2021, Issue 3

What is the effect of #MeToo on juror decision-making?

The modern #MeToo movement started in late 2017. In 2010, well before the #Metoo movement, Wright and colleagues reported research results related to a rape case. In 2019, Conklin (2020) used this same rape case to understand the effects of the #MeToo movement on juror decision-making.

In both 2010 and 2019, mock jurors were provided a brief summary of a rape case where the eyewitness is also the victim. The rape case was adapted from the real-life case of Steve Titus, who was wrongfully convicted and then exonerated. Mock jurors read the case summary, rendered a verdict of guilty or not guilty, and stated a percentage that indicated their certainty in their prediction of the defendant's guilt.

For certainty of guilt predictions, the results of the 2019 research are similar to the 2010 research. Mock jurors were 74% certain in 2010 and 71% certain in 2019.

For conviction rates, mock jurors in the post #MeToo era were significantly less willing to convict the defendant. Mock jurors convicted the defendant 71% of the time in 2010, but only 37% of the time in 2019.

Both supporters and opponents of the #MeToo movement were less willing to convict in 2019, although at disparate conviction rates. In 2019, mock jurors supporting the #MeToo movement were 70% certain of their prediction of guilt and convicted only 57% of the time. Mock jurors not supporting the #Metoo movement had a similar prediction of certainty of guilt (77%) and convicted only 27% of the time.

Mock jurors who were politically conservative were significantly more likely to convict the defendant than were liberals, despite both groups having similar certainty of guilt predictions. Conklin suggests that jurors might have concerns other than the #MeToo movement that outweigh their attitudes about the #MeToo movment when reaching a verdict. For example, conservatives convicting more might reflect liberal skepticism of the criminal justice system - and, conversely, conservative trust in it - outweighing jurors' attitudes of the #MeToo movement.

In sum, jurors are significantly less likely to convict a defendant of sexual assault in the post-#Metoo era, conservatives are more likely to convict a defendant of sexual assault than liberals, and juror attitudes about the #MeToo movement might be outweighed by higher priority concerns.

Source Conklin, M. (May 2020). #MeToo effects on juror decision making. California Law Review, 11, pp. 179-192.