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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Schrag, Joel & Scotchmer, Suzanne, 1994. "Crime and Prejudice: The Use of Character Evidence in Criminal Trials," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 10(2), pages 319-342, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jleorg:v:10:y:1994:i:2:p:319-42
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    Cited by:

    1. Marceau, Nicolas & Mongrain, Steeve, 2011. "Competition in law enforcement and capital allocation," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(1), pages 136-147, January.
    2. Dhammika Dharmapala & Thomas J. Miceli, 2013. "Search, seizure and false (?) arrest: an analysis of fourth amendment remedies when police can plant evidence," Chapters,in: Research Handbook on Economic Models of Law, chapter 11, pages 208-234 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    3. Kim, Chulyoung, 2016. "Adversarial bias, litigation, and the Daubert test: An economic approach," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 67-75.
    4. Ana Maria Ibanez & Catherine Rodriguez & David Zarruk, 2013. "Crime, Punishment, and Schooling Decisions: Evidence from Colombian Adolescents," Research Department Publications IDB-WP-413, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
    5. Dominique Demougin & Claude Fluet, 2008. "Rules of proof, courts, and incentives," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 39(1), pages 20-40.
    6. 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.
    7. Antonio Nicita & Matteo Rizzolli, 2014. "In Dubio Pro Reo. Behavioral Explanations of Pro-defendant Bias in Procedures," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 60(3), pages 554-580.
    8. Rasmusen, Eric, 1996. "Stigma and Self-Fulfilling Expectations of Criminality," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 39(2), pages 519-543, October.
    9. 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.
    10. Fluet, Claude, 2010. "L’économie de la preuve judiciaire," L'Actualité Economique, Société Canadienne de Science Economique, vol. 86(4), pages 451-486, décembre.
    11. 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.
    12. 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.
    13. 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.
    14. Bourjade, Sylvain & Rey, Patrick & Seabright, Paul, 2009. "Private Antitrust Enforcement in the Presence of Pre-Trial Bargaining," IDEI Working Papers 499, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
    15. Bourjade, Sylvain, 2009. "The role of private litigation in antitrust enforcement," MPRA Paper 34818, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    16. Ana Maria Ibanez & Catherine Rodriguez & David Zarruk, 2013. "Crime, Punishment, and Schooling Decisions: Evidence from Colombian Adolescents," Research Department Publications IDB-WP-413, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
    17. 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.
    18. Henrik Lando, 2006. "Does Wrongful Conviction Lower Deterrence?," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(2), pages 327-337, June.
    19. Ognedal,T., 2001. "Should the standard of evidence be lowered to reduce crime?," Memorandum 32/2001, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
    20. Camilo Acosta M. & Daniel Mejía & Angela Zorro M., 2016. "Certainty vs. Severity Revisited: Evidence for Colombia," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 014634, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.

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