Pretrial publicity and civil cases: A two-way street?


Notes that published pretrial publicity (PTP) research has been conducted almost exclusively with criminal cases and has focused on PTP that is detrimental to the defense. This research examined the effects of PTP in a civil case to determine if PTP can have a biasing effect against either the defendant or the plaintiff in civil litigation. In Exp 1, 81 undergraduate students (aged 18-25 yrs) participated. Ss exposed to PTP biased against the defendant were more likely to reach a liable verdict than Ss who read a control article or PTP biased against the plaintiff. 202 undergraduate students (aged 18-53 yrs) participated in Exp 2, which demonstrated that a judicial admonition did not reduce the biasing effect of PTP about a civil defendant. However, Ss given the admonition both before and after the trial evidence viewed the defendant as less culpable than Ss given the admonition after the trial only or not at all. The implications for the legal system are discussed.

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Law and Human Behavior