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Acquittals

2006

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The Cognitive Psychology Of Circumstantial Evidence, Kevin Jon Heller Nov 2006

The Cognitive Psychology Of Circumstantial Evidence, Kevin Jon Heller

Michigan Law Review

Empirical research indicates that jurors routinely undervalue circumstantial evidence (DNA, fingerprints, and the like) and overvalue direct evidence (eyewitness identifications and confessions) when making verdict choices, even though false-conviction statistics indicate that the former is normally more probative and more reliable than the latter The traditional explanation of this paradox, based on the probability-threshold model of jury decision-making, is that jurors simply do not understand circumstantial evidence and thus routinely underestimate its effect on the objective probability of the defendant's guilt. That may be true in some situations, but it fails to account for what is known in cognitive psychology …