Dateline: July, 2006

Can jurors disregard hearsay evidence when the judge instructs them to do so?

Judges frequently admonish jurors to disregard hearsay evidence, and the strength of that admonishment varies.

In a recent study by Lee, et al. (2005), mock jurors were unable to disregard inadmissible hearsay testimony in some legal decisions regardless of whether there were judicial instructions to do so.

Interestingly, jurors exhibited “backfire” effects, paying more attention to inadmissible hearsay evidence when they were strongly instructed to disregard it. Juror backfire effects were evident in both their confidence in their liability verdicts and in their punitive damage awards.

Source Lee, D. H., Krauss, D. A., & Lieberman, J. (2005). The effects of judicial admonitions on hearsay evidence. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 28, 2005, pp. 589-603.