The majority of research examining factors that influence jurors where the sole evidence is eyewitness identification focuses on stranger identifications where the eyewitness has never encountered the perpetrator before. However, it also is important to understand how familiarity between the eyewitness and perpetrator may be influential as familiarity is prevalent in criminal cases. Therefore, the current study examined the influence of familiarity recency (i.e., how long ago the eyewitness knew the defendant as a former neighbor 1, 5, or 10 years ago) and age of the eyewitness (25, 50, or 75 years old) on mock jurors’ decision-making. Mock jurors (N = 326) read a trial transcript involving a positive identification from an eyewitness. Neither familiarity recency nor eyewitness age influenced mock jurors’ perceptions of the defendant or eyewitness, or verdict decisions. However, mock jurors’ subjective ratings regarding the familiarity between the eyewitness and defendant were highly associated with mock jurors’ perceptions and verdict decisions. Specifically, higher familiarity ratings were associated with more guilty verdicts, higher guilt ratings, more positive perceptions of the eyewitness, and more negative perceptions of the defendant. This is an important finding as it demonstrates that jurors’ personal perceptions of familiarity are highly influential in familiar eyewitness cases.

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Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology
Department of Psychology

Thompson, L.E. (Lauren E), Sheahan, C. (Chelsea), Pica, E. (Emily), & Pozzulo, J. (2019). The Influence of Familiarity Recency and Eyewitness Age on Mock Jurors’ Judgement. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 34(4), 362–372. doi:10.1007/s11896-018-9311-z