Assessing Pretrial Publicity Effects: Integrating Content Analytic Results

20 Pages Posted: 26 Aug 2013

See all articles by Christina Studebaker

Christina Studebaker

Barnes and Thornburg LLP; ThemeVision LLC

Jennifer K. Robbennolt

University of Illinois College of Law

Maithilee Pathak

R&D Strategic Solutions

Steven D. Penrod

John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Date Written: 2000

Abstract

When a case has received pretrial publicity which has the capacity to bias potential jurors in the trial venue, a change of venue is one means of attempting to ensure that the defendant receives a fair trial. Content analysis of the pretrial publicity surrounding a case can provide the court with important information to consider when determining whether prejudice in the relevant community is too great for the defendant to receive a fair trial. This paper presents an approach to content analysis of pretrial publicity that draws upon both legal commentary and past empirical social science research. It is a systematic approach that could be employed by both the prosecution and defense when presenting arguments to the court about whether a change of venue should be granted. Information gleaned from content analysis of the publicity surrounding a specific case fills the gap between information provided by experimental research which has examined pretrial publicity effects and public opinion polls concerning the public’s perception of the defendant in a particular case. Results from a content analysis can serve to validate public opinion survey data gathered from the same locales. To exemplify this content analytic approach, a content analysis conducted by the authors in preparation for the change of venue hearing in the case of Timothy McVeigh is presented.

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Studebaker, Christina and Robbennolt, Jennifer K. and Pathak, Maithilee and Penrod, Steven D., Assessing Pretrial Publicity Effects: Integrating Content Analytic Results (2000). Law and Human Behavior, Vol. 24, No. 3, 2000, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2310203

Christina Studebaker

Barnes and Thornburg LLP ( email )

Chicago, IL
United States

ThemeVision LLC ( email )

11 South Meridian Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
United States

Jennifer K. Robbennolt (Contact Author)

University of Illinois College of Law ( email )

504 E. Pennsylvania Avenue
Champaign, IL 61820
United States
217-333-6623 (Phone)

Maithilee Pathak

R&D Strategic Solutions ( email )

4780 Ashford Dunwoody Road
Suite A, #465
Atlanta, GA 30338
United States

Steven D. Penrod

John Jay College of Criminal Justice ( email )

445 West 59th Street
New York, NY 10019-1199
United States

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