The Effect of Memory-Focused Judicial Instructions on Juror Decision-Making
In New Zealand, child sexual assault is highly prevalent and it is not uncommon that there is a delay in reporting the alleged offence. Currently, judges are required to provide judicial instructions regarding memory if the alleged crime occurred more than a decade ago. Historic child sexual assault cases are challenging because there is often a lack of corroborating evidence as well as physical evidence. Jurors’ decisions, therefore, must rest primarily on memory-based evidence. This can raise many memory-related issues, which the average juror has a limited understanding of. Given that New Zealand has no statute of limitations, and therefore, the aim of the current study was to examine the impact of a memory-focused judicial instruction on juror decision-making in cases of historic child sexual abuse. Mock jurors read a case of historic child sexual assault and either received a memory-focused instruction or no instruction at all. I examined whether there were differences in mock jurors’ verdicts, ratings of guilt, and ratings of the believability of the witness as a function of judicial instruction condition. I found that a judicial instruction did influence mock jurors’ verdicts. Fewer participants who received the judicial instruction found the defendant guilty than did participants who received no instruction at all. Participants were also confident in their verdict decisions. I also found that while a judicial instruction did not significantly affect mock jurors’ believability ratings, verdict significantly affected believability ratings. These findings provide some insight into the impact that memory-focused instructions may have on juror’s judgements in cases of historic child sexual assault.
Advisor: Hayne, Harlene; Gross, Julien
Degree Name: Master of Science
Degree Discipline: Psychology
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Juror Decision-Making; Judicial Instructions; Memory Instructions; Memory-Focused Instructions; Historic Child Sexual Assault; Memory; Mock Juror Verdicts; Judicial Directions
Research Type: Thesis