The Effect of Evidentiary Rules on Conviction Rates

22 Pages Posted: 8 May 2020

See all articles by Alex Lundberg

Alex Lundberg

West Virginia University - Department of Economics

Murat C. Mungan

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty

Date Written: May 8, 2020

Abstract

In a criminal trial, a jury may observe characteristics about the defendant (or victim) and use them to form a belief on the likelihood of guilt. Many evidentiary rules attempt to limit this inference. If jury beliefs are rational, such rules may be counterproductive. Any prohibition on the use of defendant characteristics as a form of evidence will never simultaneously reduce conviction rates for the innocent and increase conviction rates for the guilty. In fact, the opposite will occur under plausible conditions. However, if juries are sufficiently biased in their beliefs about guilt rates within groups of defendants, an evidentiary rule may simultaneously reduce wrongful convictions and increase rightful convictions.

Keywords: Criminal, Evidence, Jury, Trial, Wrongful Conviction

Suggested Citation

Lundberg, Alexander and Mungan, Murat C., The Effect of Evidentiary Rules on Conviction Rates (May 8, 2020). George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 20-17, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3595839 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3595839

Alexander Lundberg

West Virginia University - Department of Economics ( email )

Morgantown, WV 26506
United States

Murat C. Mungan (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty ( email )

3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

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