Research has shown that jurors are heavily influenced by secondary confessions, and that they may attribute the informant’s motives to good character rather than to an incentive. This study investigated the role of race in this context by manipulating both defendant and informant race (Black/White), informant type (jailhouse/civic duty), and whether the informant received an incentive to testify. Participants read a trial transcript and provided a verdict, then answered questions about the informant’s reason for testifying (i.e. attributions). We observed that in the absence of informant testimony, participants convicted the White defendant more often. We also discovered an effect of incentive on verdicts when the defendant was White, such that participants voted guilty less often when the informant received an incentive; there was no effect of incentive on verdict when the defendant was Black. Informant race, defendant race, and incentive showed a combined effect on verdict, such that participants were particularly suspicious (i.e. less likely to vote guilty) when a Black informant received an incentive for testifying against a Black defendant. There were no effects of race on attributions. This research sheds light on extralegal factors that can prevent jurors from considering the role of incentives in secondary confessions.

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Keywords incentives, informants, juror decision-making, race, Secondary confessions
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Journal Psychology, Crime and Law
Maeder, E.M, & Yamamoto, S. (Susan). (2017). Attributions in the courtroom: the influence of race, incentive, and witness type on jurors’ perceptions of secondary confessions. Psychology, Crime and Law, 23(4), 361–375. doi:10.1080/1068316X.2016.1258473