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Crime and Prejudice: The Use of Character Evidence in Criminal Trials

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  • Schrag, Joel
  • Scotchmer, Suzanne

Abstract

The task of juries is to dispense ex post justice. While justice requires convicting the guilty and acquitting the innocent, the evidence usually cannot distinguish with certainty. We argue that the jury will be more lenient in acquittals than is optimal for deterring crime whenever its subjective cost of wrongful convictions is at least as high as its subjective cost of wrongful acquittals. However if the jury is prejudiced against habitual criminals, its subjective cost of wrongful convictions will be relatively low, and then the jury may impede deterrence by its punitiveness rather than by its lenience. We investigate whether restricting character evidence can solve this problem. Copyright 1994 by Oxford University Press.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal Journal of Law, Economics and Organization.

Volume (Year): 10 (1994)
Issue (Month): 2 (October)
Pages: 319-42

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Handle: RePEc:oup:jleorg:v:10:y:1994:i:2:p:319-42

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Postal: Oxford University Press, Great Clarendon Street, Oxford OX2 6DP, UK
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Cited by:
  1. Dominique Demougin & Claude Fluet, 2006. "Rules of Proof, Courts, and Incentives," Cahiers de recherche 0633, CIRPEE.
  2. Bourjade, Sylvain, 2009. "The role of private litigation in antitrust enforcement," MPRA Paper 34818, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. Ognedal,T., 2001. "Should the standard of evidence be lowered to reduce crime?," Memorandum 32/2001, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
  4. Dhammika Dharmapala & Thomas J. Miceli, 2012. "Search, Seizure and (False?) Arrest: An Analysis of Fourth Amendment Remedies when Police can Plant Evidence," Working papers 2012-37, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
  5. Ognedal, Tone, 2005. "Should the Standard of Proof be Lowered to Reduce Crime?," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 45-61, March.
  6. Helsley, Robert W. & Strange, William C., 1999. "Gated Communities and the Economic Geography of Crime," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 80-105, July.
  7. Bourjade, Sylvain & Rey, Patrick & seabright, paul, 2009. "Private antitrust enforcement in the presence of pre-trial bargaining," MPRA Paper 34840, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  8. Nicolas Marceau & Steeve Mongrain, 2004. "Competition in Law Enforcement and Capital Allocation," Cahiers de recherche 0408, CIRPEE.
  9. Lehmann, Markus A., 2002. "Error minimization and deterrence in agency control," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(4), pages 373-391, May.
  10. Antonio Nicita & Matteo Rizzolli, 2013. "In Dubio Pro Reo. Behavioral explanations of pro-defendant bias in procedures," BEMPS - Bozen Economics & Management Paper Series BEMPS04, School of Economics and Management at the Free University of Bozen.
  11. Rasmusen, Eric, 1996. "Stigma and Self-Fulfilling Expectations of Criminality," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 39(2), pages 519-43, October.
  12. Schrag, Joel & Scotchmer, Suzanne, 1997. "The self-reinforcing nature of crime," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 325-335, September.
  13. Matteo Rizzolli & Margherita Saraceno, 2013. "Better that ten guilty persons escape: punishment costs explain the standard of evidence," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 155(3), pages 395-411, June.
  14. Neilson, William S. & Winter, Harold, 2005. "The Elimination of Hung Juries: Retrials and Nonunanimous Verdicts," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 1-19, March.

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