Date of Graduation

Fall 2018


Master of Science in Psychology



Committee Chair

David Zimmerman


jury, pretrial publicity, juror decision making, race, racial salience, Black lives matter movement, general pretrial publicity, perceptions of police, racism

Subject Categories

Criminology and Criminal Justice | Social Psychology


Others have investigated separately whether general pretrial publicity (PTP) or racial salience have an impact on juror decision making, but no one has explored a potential connection between the two. With information about the Black lives matter (BLM) movement recurring in the media, the question arises of whether news about the BLM movement can increase racial salience, thereby influencing juror decision making. The present research addressed whether 1) exposing participants to pro-BLM or negative-BLM news articles would influence verdicts and guilt ratings when compared to a control group, 2) whether this PTP effect would be different for Black versus White defendants, and 3) whether racial attitudes or attitudes toward police would mediate the relationship. To assess these questions, I conducted a two-part study in which participants read three newspaper articles that included either a pro-BLM article, a negative-BLM article, or a control article in addition to two distractor articles. Three days after completion, participants listened to an audio recording of a mock trial with a description of either a Black or a White defendant and viewed a mugshot that corresponded to the description. Participants then rendered their verdict, provided a likelihood of guilt rating, and responded to the Perceptions of Police Scale and Color Blind Racial Attitude Scale. No effects for race or PTP were found; however, a significant effect was found for defendant picture. This finding highlights the complexity of potential factors in juror decision making by indicating that defendant appearance may have played a greater role than either race or PTP.


© Emily R. Nerness

Open Access