Dateline: October, 2006, Issue 3

Are crime victims more likely to convict defendants of crimes?

A common question to jurors in voir dire in criminal, and some civil, cases is whether they or anyone close to them has been the victim of a crime. Jurors who are crime victims are often struck on the theory they are likely to side with the prosecution (or plaintiff).

In recent research, Culhane (2004) examined whether being a victim of a crime influenced the verdicts mock jurors gave after watching a videotape of a trial of a burglary of a habitation. Of the 2435 mock jurors participating in the research, 984 reported being a victim of some type of crime, and 982 reported knowing a close friend or relative who had been a victim. Those jurors who identified themselves as victims of the same type of crime as what they viewed convicted significantly more frequently than those who had not been victims. Interestingly, victims of violent crimes, a type of crime dissimilar to that for which the defendant was on trial, were not more likely to convict than were non-victims.

Source Culhane, S.E. (2004). Crime victims serving as jurors: Is there bias present? Law & Human Behavior, 28, pp. 649-659.